16 November 2012
Broadcast TV – hidden in plain sight
Broadcast television is perceived differently in different markets around the world. In some markets, there is no choice, its broadcast or nothing. In other markets, such as the UK, broadcast TV is viewed as a utility which everyone can receive. In most markets there is no thought as to ‘can I receive it’ more ‘which way do I point the antenna’, and broadcast is used for at least 1 TV within a household.
In the US, broadcast TV is viewed differently. Today around 85% of the US market have their main TV content from cable or satellite, with only around 15% relying on broadcast alone. The content available on broadcast TV is a well kept secret. Around 95 of the top 100 rated TV shows in the US last year were available using broadcast television, with the majority of those in excellent quality HD. However, the perception is that you have to have Pay TV in order to get the shows you want at the best quality.
In the US today, if you mention broadcast TV, most people think back to “rabbit ears” antenna on top of TV’s. Most people seem to think that they cannot receive broadcast TV easily within their home, despite the efforts from the likes of the FCC to indicate which stations should be available at a given location (http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/). The FCC website clearly indicates which stations should be easily received at a given location, and which are weaker. Further it even shows the direction an antenna should be point in to receive the signals. This effort was prompted as part of the analogue TV switch off, but unlike the UK, it has not resulted in a significant uptake in broadcast TV.
The number of TV stations available over broadcast will vary. In places such as New York up to 50 channels can be received, in some more rural areas that number diminishes significantly, with the focus on the main 4 networks. The number of channels a user can realistically receive is obviously related to where they are (hence the website above). Additionally, their location within a house can have an influence, although given the typical wood construction of a US house, the effect of being in a different room is less than a brick build European home.
For portable TV reception, beyond the rabbit ears type antenna, most people think of their experiences with the likes of the “Watchman” with its extendable antenna. With this type of product, the user experience could be frustrating, moving the antenna until a signal was found, then having to keep the product still to watch, movement could reduce the quality of the experience, or loose you the signal completely.
Today, with the high power digital ATSC transmissions, it is possible to receive HD quality TV on a small antenna. Moving this antenna around when watching TV would be a problem (as for the Watchman) however keeping the antenna in one place when watching results in an excellent viewing experience.
So couple the available content (HD and mass market prime time) with a movable antenna, add in some Motive technology and you have an excellent service to Tablets and beyond. Live HD broadcast TV on your tablet, wherever you are.
Welcome to Tablet TV.
Dr Glenn Craib
Vice President Products & Services