Preserving future of OTA television will be focus of many broadcasters at NAB Show, says Neff

Facing government and wireless industry efforts to recoup spectrum from broadcasters to meet future wireless needs, television broadcasters will travel to Las Vegas for the 2011 NAB Show with goal of preserving the future of OTA television broadcasting, said Axcera president David Neff.

"I would say the majority of the stations we are talking to are against that [giving up spectrum in incentive auctions]," he said. "They see their future in traditional ATSC broadcasting and certainly mobile. They are not inclined to give up spectrum."

According to Neff, besides seeing their future intimately tied to their spectrum, another reason broadcasters are turning a cold shoulder to participating in voluntary incentive auctions is trust. "Broadcasters are suspicious that this concept of voluntary might not stick," he said.

"Broadcasters want to find new ways to make revenue from their spectrum, not relinquish it," says Neff. One potential way to do that is by rolling out mobile DTV service, which broadcasters hope will attract a new audience for their OTA programming.

"Mobile DTV deployment is waiting for something to happen," he said. "It's the old chicken-and-egg thing." Many broadcasters perceive that the receivers are not yet widely available, while the receiver manufacturers want there to be greater availability of mobile DTV signals.

However, several consumer devices were introduced at the 2011 International CES, which could prime the pump, said Neff. "There are some deployments looming out there, some pretty big things," he said.

"It looks like this year there will be significant deployments of mobile—not a waterfall kind of thing, but we are seeing cracks in the dam," he said.

Neff said he expects to hear talk from broadcasters attending the NAB Show regarding single-frequency networks. "We'll get a lot of questions," he said. "But for now, when stations are preparing for mobile DTV, they are thinking about converting a single transmitter."

According to Neff, it's likely to stay that way until there are enough mobile DTV subscribers to make SFNs attractive. "I think the spending on infrastructure will be as minimal as possible. Distributed transmission requires multiple towers and transmitters."