The codependent nature of the consumer electronics industry and the broadcasting industry was front and center at the recently held National Association of Broadcasters convention, here.
Affordable HDTV production gear and a new platform to deliver live TV signals to cellular phones in 2006 dominated a show that had content creators and distributors getting serious about giving consumers what they want. The driver? Making more money.
“The TV market is a competitive environment, and the opportunity to do things like HD news is seen as a new revenue stream,” says Dave Walton, JVC's national marketing communications manager. For its part, JVC rolled out one of the more significant product intros: a ProHDV camcorder. Based on its consumer- and prosumer-level HDTV format the new $6,250 camera, when coupled with a $25,000 transmission system, can send live 720p/60 fps HDTV news coverage back to a station via microwave signals.
The $31,000 price point is expected to be attractive to broadcasters who have been waiting for a way to send live HDTV news reports to viewers.
Any doubts as to the veracity with which local broadcasters will move to HDTV news was left behind early in the show when Panasonic announced that 17 local TV stations, from station groups like Media General and Liberty Corp., will take delivery of the company's new AG-HVC200 P2 solid-state recording palmcorder.
The $10,000 unit (with 16 GB of reusable recording media) will give those stations a chance to immediately begin experimenting with HD news programming.
Another HD development that continues to gel is the push to full-power DTV transmission. Nearly every TV station has begun DTV or HDTV transmission at low-power, but now, with more and more DTV sets being sold every month, they're finally stepping up to serving their entire market.
Dave Glidden, director of transmission products for Harris, a major supplier of DTV gear, says another half billion will be spent by the stations on going full power.
“Stations are now making the conscious decision to maximize their power,” he says. “They're also looking to add redundancy to their DTV plants.”
Both steps mean that broadcasters believe the HDTV market is ready to be served in a way that guarantees performance for every viewer in a market.
Glidden also made mention of the true theme of the show: “Broadcasters and cable networks now want to send content in every form from 1,080i HD down to reaching mobile devices,” he says.
On the show floor the latter was on full display at the Microsoft and DVB booths.
It was announced at the show that Crown Castle, which next year expects to roll out a service delivering live TV signals to cellphones across the United States using the European DVB-H (H stands for handheld) standard, will use Microsoft's VC1 compression standard to pack 8-12 TV signals and a number of radio signals into its 5 MHz of spectrum.
Michael Schueppert, Crown Castle Mobile Media's president, says the advantage of VC1 is that it has digital rights protection and also needs less processing power to decode the signal on the phone.
The advantage of the DVB-H standard to other cellular-delivered video services is that it doesn't require a one-to-one delivery of content that requires additional cellular services.
Instead, a series of DVB-H enabled transmitters will be constructed around the country, delivering a mix of local, national and cable channels over the air.
“Just six months ago people were very skeptical because they looked at MobiTV and saw two frames per second of performance,” says Schueppert. “But we have vastly better economics and more value because of our transmission method.”