RF Shorts for Dec. 6, 2012

The Broadcast Empire Strikes Back

NAB senior VP for technology Lynn Claudy has a nice piece on the evolution of television broadcasting over the last century in his IEEE Spectrum article TV’s Future: The Broadcast Empire Strikes Back – New digital technologies could put over-the-air TV back in vogue.

“To stay in the game, however, broadcast technology desperately needs an upgrade,” Claudy said. “Most broadcasters still use the same digital transmission standards first introduced in the 1990s, when watching television was still something people mostly did at a designated place and time. Meanwhile, consumer preferences have evolved: We want our news and entertainment to be versatile and available anytime, anywhere.”

He continues, “Happily, broadcast engineers are now completing a new generation of digital tools that could turn the industry on its head. Imagine watching the World Cup while sharing statistics on your favorite players in real time. Or traveling from Toronto to Mexico City and immediately picking up local news stations for free on your smartphone. To offer such features, broadcasters will have to adopt new standards, and there’s no time like the present. Only new standards can make television cheaper, more dependable, more dazzling, more interactive, and more personalized than it’s ever been.”

His article describes what to expect from ATSC 2.0 and ATSC 3.0, and the challenges facing broadcasters as technology evolves. It’s good reading.

CNET Rates EyeTV Mobile

CNET released its review of the Elgato EyeTV Mobile with the tag line “Live TV on your iPad comes up short on channels.” CNET writer John P. Falcone says, “It's a cool idea, and it mostly works as advertised. But it comes with a list of notable caveats that keep the EyeTV Mobile from being the holy grail for iCouch Potatoes. The biggest one: you'll only get a handful of channels, sometimes as few as three, depending on your area.” The reviewer, overall, seemed happy with New York's reception, and in southwestern N.J., he was able to receive Philadelphia stations. 

He wasn't impressed with the picture quality, writing, “Picture quality was not particularly impressive, especially on the iPad. Dyle's picture size appears to be optimized for the small screen, which is why it generally looked better on the iPhone and iPod Touch. On the iPad, the flaws were magnified: the picture generally appeared blocky, with noticeable square MPEG artifacts, especially during high-motion sequences and during transitions (fading in and to black, for instance). Don't expect a crisp HD picture; instead, think "old-school YouTube"– or maybe Skype or FaceTime during a bandwidth-challenged day.”

It wasn't all bad news – he liked the idea no Internet was needed. Closed captioning support, along with pause, rewind and fast forward features, were also praised. He found it did work in a vehicle, noting “when I hopped into a cab and watched WNBC for a good 20 minutes, the reception on the EyeTV Mobile was rock-solid (or at least no worse than when I was stationary).”

No user ratings had been published when I last checked CNET.

Aereo's Micro Antennas Compared to ‘Tax Dodge’

Greg Sandoval has an article on CNET about Aereo's use of thousands of miniature antennas to pick up off-air TV for distribution to subscribers over the Internet. In Appellate judge compares Aereo's antennas to tax dodge he writes, “Members of the panel compared the antennas to a tax dodge and questioned whether they weren't part of some “fiction" designed to skirt copyright law. One of the hearing's most dramatic moments came when one of the judges noted that Aereo's service would be much more efficient if it used one giant antenna to distribute the signals. He asked David Hosp, Aereo's attorney, whether there existed any legitimate technological or business reason for implementing the scores of tiny antennas. Hosp seemed surprised by the question, but after a few moments composed himself and acknowledged that Aereo did build the antennas for the sake of complying with copyright law and not for business or technological reasons. But he reminded the judges that the antennas did in fact help Aereo's service 'follow the law to a T.'”

Comments and RF related news items are welcome. Email me at dlung@transmitter.com.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.