Posts Tagged ‘DTV’

Impressions of CES 2010 — 3D and ATSC Mobile DTV

broadcast industry technology trends, content delivery, technology trends | Posted by Joe Zaller
Jan 12 2010

Last week I made my annual winter pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the 2010 CES exhibition.

Walking the crowded show floor was like being inside of a giant Best Buy with 100,000+ other people. 

I spent most of my time at CES at the conference, and I have mixed feelings about the sessions I attended. While there were some quite good panels — particularly in the USC Emerging Tech and the excellent Arlen / Greenwald “UpNext” tracks — I found many of the sessions to be disappointing. Many sessions were long on commercial plugs and short on new information.  I also found the multiple concurrent sessions difficult to navigate, something that was not helped by CEA’s show guide / conference program, which was poorly laid out and confusing.

As most know by now, the big topics at CES were 3D, think TVs, mobile broadcasting and making money (or  not) from online content.

3D was everywhere at the show, and there have been countless reports of how many companies are betting their future on 3D.   In many of conference sessions, panelists expressed optimism for 3D — tech vendors talked about how they will have the products available, while broadcasters & content owners talked about the amount of 3D content they are going to produce / broadcast.  Personally I am skeptical about near-term consumer take-up of 3D.  Consumers who have recently upgraded to HD are unlikely to re-up for 3D any time soon, and even my early-adopter friends have said they are unlikely to put on 3D glasses to watch sports or movies.  Time will tell, and I am sure we will all be hearing much about 3D between now and the NAB show in April.

Other than they hype surrounding 3D the most interesting aspect of CES for me was a small group of booths that were showing off ATSC mobile DTV broadcasting.  US broadcasters are serious about mobile, and they were there in force along with some well established (Harris, LG) and new technology vendors.  According to several of the broadcasters and exhibitors I spoke with, there are already 30 broadcasters on the air with mobile ATSC DTV. 

More significantly according to these sources however, is that there are 200+ more local broadcasters who are planning to launch a mobile service in the near future.  These broadcasters have already spent a significant amount of money to convert to DTV, and the incremental cost to also broadcast to mobile is very small (the maximum number I heard was $150,000, with many broadcasters saying they could do it for much less).

This low cost of entry, combined with a potential of new revenue as well as the political controversy about use of spectrum is sure to make ATSC mobile DTV one of the major topics at NAB this year.  Whereas 3D is a future possibility for broadcasters, it seems to me that ATSC mobile DTV is going to happen in the near term. Broadcasters such as Sinclair, ION and others are absolutely committed to the technology, and there are many vendors on board — with more undoubtedly to follow — despite the fact that there are very few receivers and even fewer viewers at this time. 

It remains to be seen whether ATSC mobile DTV can be developed into a viable commercial offering, but this will not stop a great deal of hardware and software being sold to US broadcasters.  The barriers to entry are low (in terms of incremental cost), and the potential political victory with regard to spectrum, not to mention a new potential revenue stream practically guarantees that ATSC mobile DTV  will be coming soon to a local broadcaster near you.

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