Tech Talk


This webpage for members and guests of Lower Great Lakes Chapter of NATAS features stories and opinions about impending changes in the way  television is delivered to the viewer, and the weekly observations of Hal Protter, Chairperson of the Technology and Engineering Committee of the National Academy.  He can be reached at

Supreme Court Lets Red Lion Live
Posted on June 30, 2014 by Jon Markman

Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC is a Washington, DC area full-service communications law firm.

TVNewsCheck Tech Talk article

The Supreme Court has declined to review the latest case that offered the Court the opportunity to declare its 1969 Red Lion decision – and, more importantly, the spectrum scarcity rationale on which it was based – no longer viable. As a result, broadcasters will continue to bear the second-class First Amendment status to which they have been officially subjected for nearly 50 years.

That status was confirmed by the Supreme Court in its 1969 decision in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC. The Court there upheld the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC-crafted policy (abandoned decades ago) that unquestionably would have been unconstitutional if applied to, e.g., print media. The Court’s rationale? Spectrum is scarce, and more people want it than can have it, so the government can regulate it in ways not permitted with respect to other, supposedly less scarce, media.

Minority Television Project (MTP), licensee of Station KMTP-TV in San Francisco, challenged the continuing validity of that notion. But the Supremes declined to take the bait. As is customary, no reason was given.

We’ve blogged about MTP’s case before. A quick summary of the facts. Station KMTP-TV is a noncommercial station. More than a decade ago, MTP was fined $10,000 for airing advertisements (not the “underwriter announcements” that we all know and love on NCE stations). It paid the fine, but then turned around and sued the FCC in Federal District Court in San Francisco, seeking a refund. More importantly, MTP also asked for a declaratory ruling that the limitations imposed on NCE stations by the Communications Act are contrary to the First Amendment. (The Act prohibits NCE licensees from accepting any “advertising” – which includes not only conventional ads but also ads for political candidates and ads advocating particular issues.)

MTP lost in the District Court but, on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, it managed to convince a three-judge panel that the prohibition against political/issue-oriented ads was unconstitutional. Its success was short-lived. The full Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed the panel. Eight of the judges stuck with a Red Lion-based analysis that shunted broadcasters to the back of the First Amendment bus. (For a more detailed explanation of precisely how, analytically, that happens, check out our earlier posts on the KMTP case – Spoiler alert: it involves the difference between “strict scrutiny” and “intermediate scrutiny” standards of review.)

MTP’s fundamental argument – accepted by the initial three-judge panel and also by three judges at the en banc stage – was that times have changed since 1969 and “spectrum scarcity” no longer justifies less than complete First Amendment protection for broadcasters. We now have the Internet, satellite-delivered programming (both TV and radio) and significantly improved broadcast technology. As a result, broadcast stations no longer constitute the “uniquely pervasive” media they may once have. As Judge Kozinski observed in his dissent to the en banc decision, “bottlenecks and monopolies that existed in the field of mass communications when Red Lion was decided no longer exist.” In a nutshell, at least when it comes to First Amendment-protected content, we don’t need the government to treat broadcasters differently. This isn’t to say many, perhaps most, FCC licensing rules wouldn’t survive in a post-Red Lion universe. But limits on on-air content that historically passed muster under a Red Lion analysis would not be long for this world.

Even though MTP lost at the en banc Ninth Circuit, there was cause for optimism that the Supreme Court would be willing to review the case and, possibly, overrule Red Lion. In separate opinions in the Fox I and Fox II decisions (about the FCC’s indecency policy, which is also largely dependent on Red Lion), both Justice Thomas (in 2009) and Justice Ginsberg (in 2012) indicated skepticism about what might be left of Red Lion. None of the other Justices joined them then, though, and if they got anybody else to sign on this time around, it could have been at most one other Justice (since it takes only four votes to get the Court to grant certiorari).

So Red Lion lives on, and those aiming to take it down will have to wait for another opportunity.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Broadcasters Warn Supreme Court that Aereo Threatens to Upend Business
Oliver Munday, February 24, 2014 | 12:51PM PT

In their opening brief to the Supreme Court, broadcasters challenge the legality of Aereo but also say that a win for the start-up streaming service would be “deeply problematic” and force them to reconsider the quality and quantity of shows on free, over-the-air TV.

Their 65-page brief, filed on Monday, argues that Aereo’s streaming of broadcast signals violates the Copyright Act, as well as Congress’ intent when it was passed in 1976. The TV networks contend that Aereo’s system of dime-sized remote antennas, assigned to each subscriber, still is a public performance, and requires broadcast stations’ approval over the transmission of their signal.

“At bottom, Aereo’s arguments are irreconcilable not just with the transmit clause and Congress’ manifest intent in enacting it, but also with the basic philosophy that copyright protection embodies,” the brief states. “As this Court has had little trouble recognizing in recent years, the Copyright Act does not tolerate business models premised on the unauthorized exploitation of the copyrighted works of others. Aereo’s massive, for-profit scheme for exploiting Petitioners’ public-performance rights is no exception.”

Broadcasters’ say that Congress kept the public performance clause of the Copyright Act “purposefully broad and technology neutral” to account for changes in the marketplace.

In the brief, broadcasters contend that “although Congress recognized that people typically watch retransmitted television programming in the privacy of their own homes, it unquestionably intended ‘the public’ to include subscribers to a broadcast retransmission service. To that end, Congress provided that one is transmitting a performance ‘to the public’ regardless of whether ‘ the members of the public capable of receiving the performance … receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.’”

They added, “It is simply not plausible that a Congress so determined to guard against both existing technical workarounds and the risk that new technology might render the statute obsolete would have viewed the use of thousands of little antennas as making any difference.”

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 22.

Broadcasters say that were Aereo allowed to continue, cable and satellite companies would race to develop their own broadcast streaming services without paying retransmission fees. And while Aereo has argued that a win for broadcasters would threaten the growth of an emerging marketplace for streaming services, broadcasters say the big difference is that services like Netflix and Amazon pay for the rights to stream content.

The networks even said that the implications for an Aereo victory are broader than their own business, saying that “what is at stake is the basic right of every copyright holder to determine if, when, and how to make its copyrighted work available to the public.”

Aereo suffered a setback last week when a federal judge in Utah ordered that the company shut down its operations in Salt Lake City and Denver pending Supreme Court review.

Aereo contends that its service amounts to a private performance, and is bolstered by legal victories in federal court in New York and Boston.

The case is American Broadcasting Companies vs. Aereo.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Broadcasters Get First Victory in Court Over Aereo
Aereo/Associated Press

TVNewsCheck Tech Talk article
Aereo streams broadcast signals, including PBS’s ‘Bob the Builder.’

A federal court in Utah placed an injunction on Aereo Inc., giving TV broadcasters their first legal victory over the online video startup as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to take up the matter in April.

Judge Dale A. Kimball said Aereo, which streams TV signals over the Web for a monthly fee without TV stations’ permission, is violating the copyrights of broadcasters, argued the plaintiffs in the case. The injunction bars Aereo from operating its streaming service in the states within the U.S. Tenth Circuit, including Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho.

Aereo operates in Salt Lake City and Denver.

“The plain language of the 1976 Copyright Act supports the plaintiffs’ position,” the judge wrote in an order. The judge said Aereo has the same responsibility to license programming as cable operators who collectively pay billions of dollars a year to carry local TV stations. “Aereo’s retransmission of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs is indistinguishable from a cable company,” the order said.

In a statement, Aereo founder and Chief Executive Chet Kanojia said the company is disappointed the Utah court took a “different path” from other courts that have sided with Aereo.

“Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use,” he said. “We are very sorry for the effect on our valued customers in the Tenth Circuit and we will pursue all available remedies to restore their ability to use Aereo.”

Aereo has argued that its service is legal because it only facilitates consumers’ legal rights to receive over-the-air TV stations for free.

Broadcasters have sued Aereo in multiple jurisdictions around the country, seeking to shut down the service, but they weren’t having success before the Utah ruling.

The issue will likely be settled at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up broadcasters’ appeal of a ruling last year by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The top court is set to hear arguments in the case on April 22.

Fox Broadcasting Co., one of the plaintiffs in the Utah case, called Friday’s ruling “a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Interactive TV Standard
Established For ATSC 2.0

By Andrew Dodson, TVNewsCheck – Dec 2, 2013 3:51 PM

TVNewsCheck Tech Talk articleATSC 2.0, an enhancement of the current television standard, gained some steam Monday when the Advanced Television Systems Committee established a candidate standard for interactive TV, a key element of the new standard.

Interactive TV, or A/105, is designed to enable the marriage of Internet-delivered and broadcast content, feeding a demand of viewers wanting to consume television content on a variety of devices.

“Consumer demand for video has resulted in an increasing number of paths to deliver content to viewers,” ATSC President Mark Richer said in a statement. “The ATSC 2.0 Interactive Services system allows the broadcaster to connect broadcast programming with additional services related to that programming.”

The A/105 standard will let broadcasters take advantages of second screens and provide delivery of additional media via an Internet path. Future interactive features include viewer personalization, service usage reporting, receiver access to web-based servers and support for automatic content recognition.

The established candidate standard is available on the ATSC website. The next step is for ATSC members to vote the standard to a proposed standard, then to a finalized standard.

This entry was posted in ATSC and tagged ATSC, ATSC 2.0, Interactive TV, second screen on December 2, 2013 by Andrew Dodson.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

settling the Aero Issue
By tom Butts, Television Tech Newsletter – Oct 31, 2013 9:00 AM

As the man who built the Fox TV network 30 years ago, Barry Diller is used to battling conventional wisdom. But even he had to have been a bit surprised at the latest honor to come his way.

Last month, the Library of American Broadcasting honored Diller as a “Giant of Broadcasting” at a gala event in New York. Diller, as many of you know, is the financial backer of New York-based startup Aereo, which is in the midst of legal battles with broadcasters over its attempts to retransmit broadcast signals in violation of copyright law. Yes, folks, the man who many claim is trying to destroy the current broadcast business model, was honored by the some of the very folks who are fighting him in court.

Forget spectrum auctions or the Hopper. To say that Aereo could redefine the concept of copyright law (and broadcasting itself) is not an understatement. While there are some questions as to whether or not the antenna arrays actually perform to what Aereo claims they do, the main issue is one of retransmission fees, which bring in an estimated $3 billion annually, according to SNL Kagan, and are the financial lifeblood of TV broadcasters. If Aereo and similar services, including, survive legal challenges, it could lead to the collapse of broadcasting as we currently know it. It has even led one executive—from the network that Diller built—to announce that they would consider moving the network to the Internet if Aereo prevails. Aereo’s viability as a profitable company is not the issue here; so far its service has had limited success. Rather, it is the policy changes that could free not only services like Aereo but other pay TV providers from paying retransmission fees that constitutes the biggest threat to the financial underpinnings of the broadcast industry.

Aereo launched its service last year in New York and has since expanded to more than half a dozen cities. During this time, broadcasters have been challenging the company in several district courts, but after an initial victory last year, have lost several battles since. After its latest defeat in a Boston court, broadcasters decided to take its case to the Supreme Court. Although the issues surrounding the case are fairly complex, the question broadcasters posed to the court is simple: “Whether a company ‘publicly performs’ a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet.”

Aereo bases its entire existence on the now-infamous Cablevision case in 2008 in which copyright holders in the television and film industries claimed that the New York cable provider’s hosted DVR service constituted a “public performance,” thereby violating copyright laws. The court disagreed, basically saying that automated copying or timeshifting of content from the cloud-based service did not. In its legal filings, Aereo claims that its service is no different than Cablevision’s.

So far, Aereo seems to be on the winning side in the lower courts but broadcasters want the issue settled sooner rather than later as the startup expands westward. Putting the issue in front of the Supreme Court is a gamble as the court may defer to previous decisions or even to Congress. Considering the unpredictability of the courts, broadcasters may have to pursue the legislative alternative.

As for Mr. Diller, this honor reminds us that perhaps he is not done having an impact on our business.

See more at:


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

DirecTV, Time Warner Cable Are Said to Weigh Aereo-Type Services
By Andy Fixmer, Alex Sherman & Jonathan Erlichman – Oct 25, 2013 9:00 PM PT

DirecTV, Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR), taking a page from Aereo Inc., are considering capturing free broadcast-TV signals to avoid paying billions of dollars in so-called retransmission fees, said people with knowledge of the deliberations.

Aereo, which charges $8 a month for online access to broadcast TV, is locked in a court battle with CBS Corp. (CBS) and other media companies over the legality of its service. If Aereo prevails, cable companies could use the same approach to bypass the fees they now pay for network signals, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are at an early stage. Time Warner Cable has even considered buying Aereo, said one of the people.

Aereo Inc. Chief Executive Officer and Founder Chet Kanojia. Aereo, which charges $8 a month for online access to broadcast TV, is locked in a court battle with CBS Corp. and other media companies over the legality of its service.

Aereo Inc. Chief Executive Officer and Founder Chet Kanojia. Aereo, which charges $8 a month for online access to broadcast TV, is locked in a court battle with CBS Corp. and other media companies over the legality of its service.

July 31 (Bloomberg) — Chet Kanojia, chief executive officer of Aereo Inc., talks about the company’s growth strategy and legal battles. He speaks with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Broadcast TV companies petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court this month to rule that Aereo is an illegal operation. The startup, backed by billionaire Barry Diller, uses thousands of small antennas to capture free over-the-air signals and transmits the programming to paying subscribers over the Internet — without the permission of broadcasters.

“If found to be legal, the Aereo concept is very interesting, especially as it relates to retransmission consent fees,” Maureen Huff, a spokeswoman for New York-based Time Warner Cable, said yesterday. She declined to comment on whether the cable company would consider buying Aereo.

Justin Venech, a spokesman for Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter, declined to comment, as did Aereo’s Virginia Lam. Darris Gringeri, a spokesman for El Segundo, California-based DirecTV, didn’t return messages seeking comment.

‘Gravy Train’

Aereo’s legal fight pits the New York-based startup against some of the world’s largest media companies, including Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBCUniversal. The broadcasters are trying to preserve their ability to charge retransmission fees, which let pay-TV companies air CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox on their systems.

“This threatens the retrans gravy train,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG LLC in New York. “As Aereo continues to win legal battles, it’s becoming more apparent it could survive these challenges.”

Federal regulators require pay-TV systems to gain consent from TV stations to rebroadcast their signals. The networks, including Spanish-language broadcasters Univision Communications Inc. and NBCUniversal’s Telemundo, own many of their stations. Others are affiliates owned by companies including Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Co. (TRBAA), Hearst Corp. and Gannett Co. The networks are beginning to share in the fees collected by their affiliates.

‘Plucking’ Signals

Retransmission fees in the U.S. are expected to double to $6.1 billion in 2018 from $3.01 billion this year, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

The fees are essential to the broadcast TV industry, Fox President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said in April. If Aereo is permitted to stay in business, Fox’s broadcast network will convert into a cable channel and cease to provide over-the-air access, he said at the time.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said he would do the same, as did Univision Chairman Haim Saban.

Cable companies are within their rights seeking to match Aereo’s ability, if it stands up in court, to capture free broadcast signals rather than pay for land-based access, said Leo Hindery, managing partner of New York-based private equity fund InterMedia Partners and former chairman of the YES Network.

“It is intellectually and legally inconsistent to saddle the cable industry with billions of dollars each year of broadcast retransmission fees, while allowing a similarly for-profit company to pluck broadcast signals out of the air and sell them without paying any such fees,” Hindery said in an interview. “The cable companies are fully entitled to do everything in their power to stop this travesty.”

Shares of Time Warner Cable, the second-biggest U.S. cable system, were little changed yesterday in New York, closing at $119.44. Charter rose 0.4 percent to $138.58. DirecTV (DTV), the biggest U.S. satellite-TV system, fell 0.3 percent to $62.81.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at; Alex Sherman in New York at; Jonathan Erlichman in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at; Anthony Palazzo at


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

CRE: Nielsen Diaries Worse Than You Thought
The Council for Research Excellence evaluated two primary factors affecting the accuracy of information gathered through ratings diaries — random errors and biases due to skewed audience samplings. Based on 11 years of Nielsen data, one study found that the margin of error in ratings derived from diaries is growing, meaning those figures are frequently off by more than 10%, long considered standard. The group’s other study found that ratings based on diaries continue to be skewed, despite efforts to reach a wider breadth of viewers by using address-based instead of phone-based audience samples.

By Diana Marszalek – TVNewsCheck, October 8, 2013 5:44 AM EDT

Nielsen’s ratings diaries are becoming increasingly unreliable due to a proliferation of random errors. Separately, a lack of response from particular viewers such as young adults and Hispanics causes bias in sampling. These are according to two new studies from the Council for Research Excellence.

“You just can’t get the stability and the reliability with the current system that we have without a much larger sample,” says the CRE’s Richard Zackon.

The CRE released the findings in conjunction with the group’s Local Measurement Mini-Summit being held this afternoon in New York.

The CRE evaluated two primary factors affecting the accuracy of information gathered through ratings diaries — random errors and biases due to skewed audience samplings.

Based on 11 years of Nielsen data, one study found that the margin of error in ratings derived from diaries is growing, meaning those figures are frequently off by more than 10%, long considered standard. Total-day household ratings fall within that 10% just 11.3% of the time, the study found.

The ratings in primetime fall within that range 26% of the time. Ratings for weekday evening and late newscasts fall within the range 18.1% and 20.7% of the time, respectively, the study shows.

Diary-based ratings measuring demographics are even more prone to error because audience samples are smaller, according to the CRE.

The group’s other study found that ratings based on diaries continue to be skewed, despite efforts to reach a wider breadth of viewers by using address-based instead of phone-based audience samples.

Univision’s Ceril Shagrin, who chairs the CRE Sample Quality Committee, says ratings diaries don’t represent a true cross-section of TV watchers because “those who don’t complete the diaries are very different from the ones who do.”

The study, for instance, found that diary respondents tend to be older than non-respondents, and frequently don’t have children living at home. Hispanics and young adults are among the demographics not accurately reflected in diary data, Shagrin says.

The research is in line with similar findings the CRE released in a 2009 study, and is part of the organization’s ongoing effort to work with Nielsen to improve the reliability of dairy-based data, she says.

“I am hoping that in our natural process we can determine what we learned and based on what was learned determine what could be changed,” she says. “There is more work to be done.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Cable Seeks Signal Substitution In Retrans
Among testimony set to be delivered on Tuesday at a House hearing on retransmission consent is a proposal to allow cable and satellite providers to offer distant network signals during negotiations to avoid blackouts. And a new bill introduced Monday by Rep. Anna Eshoo would give the FCC authority to “grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation.”

By Doug Halonen TVNewsCheck, September 9, 2013 4:23 PM EDT

Broadcast TV’s competitors will urge Congress Tuesday to revise retransmission consent law to permit cable and satellite TV companies to use distant network signals during retransmission consent negotiations.

“Without immediate action by Congress … it seems likely that millions more screens will go dark every year, and consumers will pay more and more for their cable and satellite service,” R. Stanton Dodge, EVP and general counsel of Dish Network, will testify during a hearing before a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee, according to an advance copy of his written testimony.

“While CenturyLink believes that content owners should be reasonably compensated for their content, under the current law, retransmission consent fees are providing windfall profits for the major broadcast networks and owners of multiple broadcast stations rather than a safety net for local stations,” James Campbell, CenturyLink regional VP, public policy, will testify. He also will make clear that his company wants the right to carry distant network programming during retransmission consent bargaining.

“Consumers should not be punished as a result of provider negotiations,” Campbell says in the written text of his testimony.

But the National Association of Broadcasters will urge lawmakers to veto the pleas for relief. “A change in the law that would permit a satellite carrier to import a distant signal — not based on need, but to gain unfair market leverage in a retransmission consent dispute — would be contrary to decades of congressional policy aimed to promote localism,” Gerard Waldron, a communications attorney who is testifying in NAB’s behalf, will say, according to the text of his written testimony for the hearing.

Allowing the importation of network signals also would jeopardize the “viability of the local network-affiliated stations,” Waldron will also add.

Among other arguments, Waldron will contend that viewers are far more likely to lose access to TV programming from power outages than from retransmission consent bargaining impasses. In addition, he will charge that that 89% of the recent “service disruptions” resulting from negotiating impasses have involved three companies — Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish.

“Broadcasters have never been found by the FCC to be in violation of their obligation to negotiate in good faith,” Waldron will add, according to his testimony.

Also during the hearing, the American Cable Association will testify in favor of a “standstill” arrangement that would allow cable operators to continue to carry a broadcaster’s programming — under the terms of the elapsed agreement — during retrans consent negotiations. Earle MacKenzie, EVP-COO of Shenandoah Telecommunications — the ACA board member who is slated to present the association’s case at the hearing — will say that the terms for a new deal would be applied retroactively, with the negotiations ultimately subject to binding arbitration when necessary.

Broadcast industry competitors are making their pitches for relief as Congress considers yet another extension of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which gives satellite companies copyright clearance to retransmit distant TV signals. STELA, as the act is known, has emerged as a prime industry target for retransmission consent reform.

On a related note, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., on Monday released draft legislation that would give the FCC authority to “grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation,” according to a press release issued by the congresswoman’s office.

The legislation — the Video CHOICE Act — according to the news release, also would prohibit a TV station “engaged in a retransmission consent negotiation from making their owned or affiliated cable programming a condition for receiving broadcast programming.” In addition, the legislation would allow consumers to buy cable TV service without subscribing to retransmission consent TV stations.

“Recurring TV blackouts … have made it abundantly clear that the FCC needs explicit statutory authority to intervene when retransmission disputes break down” said Eshoo, ranking Democrat on the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which has also slated hearings on the TV industry for Wednesday.

NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith said his association opposes the Eshoo bill, which he alleged had a “pro-pay TV slant” and could “embolden pay-TV giants to continue to game the system rather than negotiate in the free market for programming most valuable to viewers.”

Parents Television Council President Tim Winter said: “We applaud Congresswoman Eshoo’s efforts to change current regulations that are being used to stifle competition and consumer choice. The stranglehold that programmers have over distributers and, more importantly, the stranglehold they have over consumers, urgently needs to be broken. This bill would help pave the way for more options in the marketplace.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Major Multi-Channel Video Providers Lost About 345,000 Subscribers in 2Q 2013
Quarterly Industry Losses Similar to Recent Second Quarters

Durham, NH — August 19, 2013 — Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the thirteen largest multi-channel video providers in the US — representing about 94% of the market — lost about 345,000 net additional video subscribers in 2Q 2013. In 2Q 2012 and in 2Q 2011, the multi-channel video industry lost about 325,000 subscribers.

The top multi-channel video providers account for nearly 94.6 million subscribers — with the top nine cable companies having about 50.5 million video subscribers, satellite TV companies having over 34 million subscribers, and top telephone companies having over 10 million subscribers.

Other key findings include:

  • The top nine cable companies lost about 555,000 video subscribers in 2Q 2013 — compared to a loss of about 540,000 subscribers in 2Q 2012
  • The top telephone providers added 373,000 video subscribers in 2Q 2013 — compared to 275,000 net additions in 2Q 2012
  • Satellite TV providers lost 162,000 subscribers in 2Q 2013 — compared to a loss of 62,000 in 2Q 2012
    • Although just the third time DBS providers reported net quarterly losses, total DBS net losses in 2Q 2013 were the highest in any quarter since LRG began tracking the industry over a decade ago
  • Over the past year, multi-channel video providers lost about 100,000 subscribers, compared to a gain of about 380,000 over the prior year
    • DirecTV added 107,000 subscribers over the past year — compared to 481,000 over the prior year

“The traditionally weak second quarter proved to be a down quarter for the multi-channel industry, but industry-wide losses were similar to recent second quarters,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “The multi-channel video industry has leveled-off, with major providers losing about 0.1% of all subscribers over the past year.”

Multi-channel Video Provider

Subscribers at End of 2Q 2013

Net Adds in 2Q 2013

Net Adds in 2Q 2012

Cable Companies






Time Warner




















Cable ONE




Other Major Private Cable Companies**




Total Top Cable





Satellite TV Companies (DBS)










Total Top DBS





Telephone Companies


Verizon FiOS




AT&T U-verse




Total Top Telephone Companies





Total Multi-channel Video




Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* Cablevision includes estimates for former Bresnan properties sold to Charter on 7/1/2013
** Includes LRG estimates for Cox and Bright House Networks
Top cable companies do not include overbuilder WOW with 682,000 subscribers
Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions
Top multi-channel video providers represent approximately 94% of all subscribers
Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households
Note that LRG consumer research finds that about 1% of households subscribe to both cable and DBS

About Leichtman Research Group, Inc.

Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) specializes in research and analysis on broadband, media and entertainment industries. LRG combines on-going surveys and analysis with years of hands-on industry experience to provide companies with a richer understanding of the potential impact and adoption of new products and services. For more information about LRG, please call (603) 397-5400 or visit


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Judge say court got cablevision wrong
By: Deborah D. McAdams (TVTechnology) July 17 2013 – 4:35pm

NEW YORK — Judge Denny Chin says the court got it wrong with a ruling that allowed Cablevision to deploy server-based digital video recording without content provider consent. That 2008 decision redefined TV signal copyright law, and is now the basis of Aereo’s contention that it has a legal right to redistribute those signals without permission. Aereo is the New York-based start-up aggregating and reselling broadcast signals to mobile subscribers.

“Cablevision was wrongly decided,” said Judge Chin in a dissent of his colleagues’ refusal this week to convene an en banc hearing on WNET, et al, v. Aereo.

“…Rehearing these cases en banc would also give the court the opportunity to reconsider Cablevision,” he said.

In the Cablevision case, networks sued over the provider’s deployment of set-tops that enabled storage of content at Cablevision facilities for playback at home. The legality of this remote storage rested on whether or not playback was deemed a “public” performance, and therefore subject to copyright protection; or a “private” performance not likewise protected.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, then under Judge Chin, defined Cablevision’s remote DVR as a public performance based on the collective audience of a given performance. The Second Circuit vacated and reversed the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert.

Judge Chin continues to maintain that Cablevision’s technology comprises a public performance.

“It makes no difference whether each member of the public receives the work by means of several individualized, asynchronous transmissions, or a single shared transmission,” he wrote.

“Cablevision’s focus on whether the public is capable of receiving each individual transmission and the technicalities of how that transmission process works is incompatible with the statute,” he wrote. “By declining to rehear these cases en banc, the court misses an opportunity to reconsider Cablevision and correct its misinterpretation of the Copyright Act.”

Even if Cablevision was correctly decided, Judge Chin said it should be limited to the facts of the case and not applied as a precedent for Aereo. Cablevision agreed in an amicus brief filed with the Second Circuit last September.

“Aereo’s system is nothing like—much less ‘materially identical’ to the RS-DVR for copyright purposes,” Cablevision’s brief stated. “Unlike Aereo, Cablevision operates a licensed cable system that retransmits content to subscribers pursuant to agreements with content providers.”

Aereo claims to retransmit TV signals to individual subscribers through one of thousands of dime-sized antennas closely packed in arrays, making the service a private performance.

“Under this theory, Aereo maintains that it may, for example, stream the Super Bowl ‘live’ to 50,000 subscribers and yet, because each subscriber has an individual antenna and a ‘unique’ copy of the broadcast, these are not ‘public’ but ‘private’ performances,” Judge Chin wrote.

Several radio frequency engineers have said that because of the nature of UHF TV signals, an array of tiny antennas would work instead as a single antenna, rendering Aereo’s service a public performance.

The broadcast plaintiffs in the Aereo case had requested a hearing of the entire Second Circuit Court of Appeals bench following the April 1 denial of an injunction by a three-judge panel, which included Judge Chin. He also dissented on that decision, calling Aereo’s technology a “Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act and to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the law.”

With his most recent dissent, Judge Chin referred to Aereo’s technology as a “sham.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

DirecTV Looks to Test Off-Air Antenna in Set-Top
Device Would Help Satellite Giant Ease Retrans Fees
By: Mike Farrell May 15 2013 – 3:36pm

DirecTV is considering testing a new set-top that incorporates an antenna allowing customers to pull over-the-air broadcast signals, which could allow the satellite giant to avoid paying millions of dollars per year in retransmission consent fees.

Speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston, DirecTV chief financial officer Patrick Doyle said the company had used the integrated antenna solution early in its history, before it began offering local broadcast channels via satellite. Once the satellite giant began offering local-into-local broadcast signals on a wide scale basis, the antenna solution didn’t make economic sense.

But now, with the advent of retransmission consent and the huge fees that some broadcasters charge, the economics have changed, he said.

“Now we’re spending a fair amount of time on the technology side, taking an over-the-air signal, integrating into our set-top boxes and not paying a retrans cost,” Doyle said at the conference. “Now the NPV [net present value] of the future costs you’re going to pay in retrans is a big enough number … now it’s starting to make sense. We’ll spend more time on it. We’ll probably test in some markets an over-the-air integrated tuner set-up and make sure the customer experience is there.”

Retransmission consent costs have long been a thorn in the side of multichannel video programming distributors. According to SNL Kagan, retrans fees could top $6 billion annually by 2018, with satellite TV service providers paying an estimated $2 billion of that bill.

Doyle wouldn’t say when an integrated set-top would be available, and added that once it is rolled out, it initially will be only with new customers, eventually expanding to its existing base. DirecTV is the second largest MVPD in the country, with about 20 million subscribers.

In an e-mail message, DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said no dates for testing are scheduled at this point and that the satellite giant has always had integrated tuners in some of its set-top boxes. He added that the company is “just exploring any options that could help get programming costs under control.”

High programming costs were a hot topic at the conference. Earlier, Doyle said rising sports costs are forcing the satellite giant to scrutinize viewership with every channel, adding that absent federal involvement, it may take the failure of a large programming deal to break the chain of double digit annual rate increases.

Already DirecTV has balked at carrying the Pac 12 Network and Comcast’s Houston regional sports network, because it didn’t feel it had the viewership to justify the price. On the other hand, DirecTV does carry what some have claimed to be the priciest regional sports network in the country – Time Warner Cable SportsNet in Los Angeles – because it considers the network a must-have for its customers in that market.

Doyle added that if Washington doesn’t get involved, change will only come after the costs gets so high that a content owner can’t realize a return on its investment.

He added the next test of that concept could come with the upcoming Los Angeles Dodgers RSN, expected to launch next year. Time Warner Cable spent an estimated $7 billion to $8 billion to be the charter distributor of the channel, as well as being its exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent along with certain branding and programming rights.

“This is what happens when you get into this environment where there doesn’t seem to be any discipline on the rights side,” Doyle said. “We’re spending a lot of time, and we will continue to spend a lot of time, on how many of our customers watch a Dodgers game on any given night, how does it spread across the base, when we are presented with an offer, how does that cost match up with the value we see to our customers. You go back a few years ago, we weren’t doing that kind of analysis.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

ABC Sets Live Streaming Service Launch
By: Andrea Morabito (Broadcasting & Cable) May 12 2013 – 7:52pm

Marking a first for a broadcast network, ABC on Sunday announced the launch of its Watch ABC app to allow pay-TV subscribers access to live, linear streaming of viewers’ local ABC station programming — including network, local and syndicated content — starting in the New York and Philadelphia markets.

The service will launch first as a free preview on May 14, to coincide with the network’s upfront presentation in New York, and be available to all viewers through a special open access preview with WABC-TV and WPVI through the end of June. After that, it will be available to authenticated subscribers in New York and Philadelphia, with Disney-ABC having agreements in place for the authenticated product with Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Midcontinent Communications and AT&T U-verse.

The app will roll out in the other six ABC-owned station markets this summer — Los Angeles (KABC-TV), Chicago (WLS-TV), San Francisco (KGO-TV), Houston (KTRK-TV), Raleigh-Durham (WTVD-TV) and Fresno (KFSN-TV). The network has also reached an agreement with Hearst Television to launch the service in their 13 station markets, which include Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee, in the coming months. Deals with other station groups are expected to be announced prior to the start of the fall season.

“Watch ABC is a game-changing innovation for the broadcast television industry,” said Anne Sweeney, cochair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, in a statement. “This announcement represents a defining moment in technology and distribution, as well as for our advertising and affiliate partners, as we ensure that our high-quality content is available to viewers on a variety of devices. Our mission with this special preview is to gather key learnings about the service and the consumers who utilize it in order for our Watch products to be the gold standard experience of authenticated multiplatform viewing.”

The Watch ABC app will include live streaming of ABC shows and local programming plus on demand content currently found on the ABC Full-Episode Player and app. The live streams will carry different ads but the same ad break lengths, according to an ABC spokesman.

The company launched similar services for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior in June 2012, as well as WatchESPN. The company plans to roll out a Watch ABC Family app in early 2014.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Airing Hi-Def Commercials Should No Longer Cost More Than Standard Definition
By Wayne Dykes, president/CEO, SpotGenie — Broadcasting & Cable, 5/2/2013 1:53:07 PM

Over the past several months, we have engaged in an interesting research project designed to paint a picture of the local TV advertising landscape and examine how large and small advertisers fit into that landscape.

Our method has been to record local broadcasts on multiple stations, in multiple markets, and then sift through the data.

Some of the results, while surprising, did not completely catch us off guard. For instance, we learned that 80% of the recorded spots were aired in high-definition, which represents a major increase from a couple of years back when around 25% were airing in hi-def. This was only mildly interesting since we knew from our own internal trends that there had been a pretty dramatic increase in recent years.

There was, however, a completely unexpected, consistent trend that stuck out: We expected to find that national advertisers with deeper pockets had an advantage over regional advertisers in the realm of HD spot broadcasts on local television.

According to our findings, however, that supposition turned out to be, by and large, unfounded. While the large national marketers still maintain an advantage, the regional advertisers have closed the gap and tend to be more or less on par with the national brands on the local television front when it comes to airing HD spots.

And quite surprisingly, it became clear, almost right away, that in the arena of local broadcast television, mom-and-pop advertisers have pulled ahead of their large national and regional rivals in HD spot airing.

Some examples:

  • The Big Three auto automakers are airing standard-definition spots on HD stations, while “lowly” local car dealers are airing their locally produced spots in HD, often during the same commercial break.
  • Locally owned furniture retailers are airing HD spots, while larger chains are still in SD.
  • Nationally known fast food and pizza advertisers are still running SD spots, while the local pizzeria is in full HD.
  • Casual dining national steakhouses are actually showing food shots in SD, while the local competitors are running HD food footage.

There are a couple of reasons for this surprising technology advantage inversion. First, local advertisers’ spots are frequently produced by TV stations which would rather have a root canal than run their in-house produced spots in SD. Second, the spot upload is free to the clients in this situation. Conversely, a national or regional advertiser with a 200+ station footprint is being told by their agency that it will cost up to 1000% more to distribute their spots in HD than SD.

A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that in many cases, ad agencies have distribution contracts with large vendors that don’t necessarily benefit all clients equally.

National advertisers can afford to pay $100+ per spot to distribute in HD as their distribution footprint consists of the Big Four broadcast networks and larger cable nets (30-40 total stations).

It is a different story for the regional clients, however, which must distribute to a much larger number of stations to reach their audiences. At those rates, the distribution costs would rival the actual production costs spent to create the spots.

But given that CPU power, storage and bandwidth have increased exponentially over the past five years, there’s no reason HD distribution should cost much more — or more at all — than SD.

For the media, to run a hi-def spot is not more costly. Post-production doesn’t cost more as most advertisers are finishing in HD regardless of how the spot runs.

A distribution vendor’s exaggerated sales projections to their shareholders/investors or the contract an agency signed with a vendor should not obligate a regional advertiser to either pony up ridiculous sums of money or be relegated to second-class status on the local broadcasting airwaves, diminishing their brands in the process.

And yet, that is seemingly what has happened.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

NAB Asks FCC to Lift Freeze
Asks why changes to OET-69 are limited to incentive auction

By Deborah D. McAdams / 04.26.2013 04:21 PM

WASHINGTON – Broadcast lobby reps have asked regulators to lift the freeze on TV license modifications. A team from the National Association of Broadcasters visited with members from FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s staff on Wednesday, asking that the freeze be reconsidered.

“In addition to offering no compelling rationale for such a freeze—including the freezing of all applications that had already been filed in accordance with commission rules—it appears that the freeze is having dramatic consequences even beyond negative impacts on individual stations and viewers,” the NAB’s ex parte filing documenting the meeting said.

The freeze was initiated April 5, the week before the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Two weeks later, the industry’s largest manufacturer of high-power transmission antennas, Dielectric, announced it would go out of business. Industry observers and insiders cited the freeze as one of the primary reasons for Dielectric’s closure.

“It appears that, as a result of particular actions at the commission and resulting uncertainty in the broadcast industry, Dielectric and other similar manufacturers are cutting jobs or exiting the industry altogether,” the NAB filing said. “Not only does this affect the employment of a number of Americans, but it also puts out of business one of the companies most necessary to effectuating incentive auction repacking. We therefore urge the Media Bureau to lift it’s freeze until it is able to examine, evaluate and explain the impact of the freeze on all pending and impending modification applications.”

During the same meeting, the NAB team, including Rick Kaplan, Jane Mago and Bruce Franca, asked that the changes to OET-69 be put aside for the spectrum auction. The commission quietly introduced changes to OET-69, the methodology for calculating a TV station coverage area, in February. (An update was released today… “FCC Releases Updated OET-69 TVStudy Software.” It does not address the concerns laid out herein, but rather a coding issue.)

“NAB’s analysis indicates that the changes being made to OET-69 through the Public Notice creates less, rather than more, accurate results,” the filing said. “Moreover, even if the new software changing the OET-69 methodology was indeed more accurate—which it is not—NAB queried why the commission would use the new methodology only for incentive auctions and not all of OET-69’s functions.

“For example, why would OET propose only to change the methodology to be more accurate for incentive auctions, but leave in place the purportedly inferior methodology for all ongoing application filings?”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Washington, Industry Should Listen To Carey
By Harry A. Jessell, TVNewsCheck, April 12, 2013

News Corp. CEO Chase Carey’s declaration that it will turn its broadcast network and stations into cable channels if Aereo is not stopped sends a message — a warning really — that Aereo is a menace to the broadcasting business and to the millions of viewers who enjoy and rely on the over-the-air service. But there are other options for Fox in the fight against online pirates: live streaming and mobile DTV. Establishment of those services won’t leave much room in the marketplace for third parties waving another monthly bill in front of consumers.

From this reporter’s perspective, Fox stole the show.

Chase Carey, CEO of parent News Corp., captured the spotlight of the NAB convention during the opening session. In an on-stage interview with NAB President Gordon Smith, he declared that Fox is prepared to turn off the broadcast transmitters and convert its O&Os and affiliates to pay channels if the courts or Congress or somebody doesn’t squash Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed venture that believes it can stream broadcast signals online without permission of copyright owners. “We won’t just sit idle and let people steal our signal,” Carey said.

Then a day later, in another move that could also be seen as motivated by Aereo loathing, Fox officials told its affiliates that it is ready to give them permission to stream their signals so they can be received on mobile devices in TV everywhere partnerships with cable and satellite operators.

At the very same time Fox was meeting with its affiliates, during a panel session I moderated, Fox business development exec Erik Moreno made a strong argument for mobile TV and called on all broadcasters to pony up and begin broadcasting mobile DTV signals. “We could build a network nationwide with $300 million. That’s less than it takes to light the bulbs of a Verizon LTE network. You pay for the spectrum, build out a cell tower, it’s north of $25 billion.”

The Carey remarks were carefully orchestrated. Key affiliates were tipped off beforehand, Smith dutifully provided the set up and Fox sent out a confirming statement immediately after Carey spoke. Affiliates and NAB were on hand to voice full support.

Fox wanted to send a message loud and clear — not so much to the NAB attendees, but to the regulators and lawmakers in Washington and perhaps even to the federal judges who may one day decide the legality of Aereo.

The message — a warning really — was that Aereo is a menace to the broadcasting business and to the millions of viewers who enjoy and rely on the over-the-air service. If Fox can’t control the distribution of the programming it broadcasts, it will simply stop broadcasting. And if OTA viewers suddenly couldn’t find their favorite Fox programs, it would be the fault of overly permissive courts and a Congress that failed to defend Fox’s broadcast copyrights.

I do hope Washington gets the message.

In his amplifying statement, Carey said that converting Fox to a pay channel is just “one option” for stopping Aereo. I would call it the defensive option.

The offensive options are live online streaming and mobile DTV. If Fox and its affiliates put their signals online or broadcast them using the mobile DTV standard and don’t charge extra for them, there won’t be much room in the marketplace for Aereo and other signal pirates waving another monthly bill in front of consumers.

That Fox and at least two of the other major networks, ABC and NBC, are proposing to pursue live streaming in league with cable operators as part of their TV everywhere initiatives is also smart. As partners, the operators won’t be tempted to use Aereo technology to create IP packages of local broadcast signals and circumvent retransmission consent payments to broadcasters.

In moving their signals online, broadcasters would be doing precisely what outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told them they should be doing during his appearance at NAB — that is, streaming their “great national and local content ” on the broadband platform.

But, not surprisingly, Genachowski took it a bit far, turning the suggestion into another argument for allocating more spectrum, presumably TV spectrum, to broadband. “If we don’t solve that [broadband spectrum shortage], the opportunity to take advantage of interactive video on the mobile platform won’t be there.”

Fox’s Moreno had a better idea. Instead of pumping more spectrum into the bottomless pit of broadband, use mobile DTV to deliver video and ease the demand on the broadband networks, he said. Now that wireless carriers are charging consumers for data by how much they use, mobile DTV makes all the sense in the world.

If a consumer watches Fox on his tablet all day long via broadband, he could end up with a data charge of several hundred dollars. If he watches via mobile DTV, he would “not get a penny of bandwidth charge.”

Mobile DTV has been a long time coming. It has been difficult for a lot of broadcasters to keep the faith. Our survey of chief engineers last February found that 48% of them didn’t think mobile DTV had much chance of making it and another 33% didn’t know what to think.

But listening to Moreno Tuesday, you want to believe again. He makes a powerful case.

One of the big obstacles to mobile DTV has been the steadfast opposition of the wireless carriers. Without the support of the carriers, smartphone vendors are not going to equip their phones with mobile DTV receivers.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Zero TV’ homes worry broadcasters

This image provided by James Weitze shows a truck driver taking a self-portrait on the road. Weitze satisfies his video fix with an iPhone. He sleeps most of the time in his truck, and has no apartment. To be sure, he’s an extreme case and probably wouldn’t fit into Nielsen’s definition of a household in the first place. But he’s watching Netflix enough to keep up on shows like “Weeds” and “Arrested Development.”

LOS ANGELES – Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

While show creators and networks make money from this group’s viewing habits through deals with online video providers and from advertising on their own websites and apps, broadcasters only get paid when they relay such programming in traditional ways. Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from Zero TV viewers will be zero.

“Getting broadcast programing on all the gizmos and gadgets — like tablets, the backseats of cars, and laptops — is hugely important,” says Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Although Wharton says more than 130 TV stations in the U.S. are broadcasting live TV signals to mobile devices, few people have the tools to receive them. Most cellphones require an add-on device known as a dongle, but these gadgets are just starting to be sold.

Among this elusive group of consumers is Jeremy Carsen Young, a graphic designer, who is done with traditional TV. Young has a working antenna sitting unplugged on his back porch in Roanoke, Va., and he refuses to put it on the roof.

“I don’t think we’d use it enough to justify having a big eyesore on the house,” the 30-year-old says.

Online video subscriptions from Netflix Inc. and Inc. — which cost less than $15 a month combined — have given him and his partner plenty to watch. They take in back episodes of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and The CW’s “Supernatural,” and they don’t need more, he says.

He doesn’t mind waiting as long as a year for the current season’s episodes to appear on streaming services, even if his friends accidently blurt out spoilers in the meantime. With regular television, he might have missed the latest developments, anyway.

“By the time it gets to me to watch, I’ve kind of forgotten about that,” he says.

For the first time, TV ratings giant Nielsen took a close look at this category of viewer in its quarterly video report released in March. It plans to measure their viewing of new TV shows starting this fall, with an eye toward incorporating the results in the formula used to calculate ad rates.

“Our commitment is to being able to measure the content wherever it is,” says Dounia Turrill, Nielsen’s senior vice president of insights.

The Zero TV segment is increasingly important, because the number of people signing up for traditional TV service has slowed to a standstill in the U.S.

Last year, the cable, satellite and telecoms providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That is tiny when compared to the 974,000 new households created last year. While it’s still 100.4 million homes, or 84.7 percent of all households, it’s down from the peak of 87.3 percent in early 2010.

Nielsen’s study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. While three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription.

Zero TVers tend to be younger, single and without children. Nielsen’s senior vice president of insights, Dounia Turrill, says part of the new monitoring regime is meant to help determine whether they’ll change their behavior over time. “As these homes change life stage, what will happen to them?”

Cynthia Phelps, a 43-year-old maker of mental health apps in San Antonio, Texas, says there’s nothing that will bring her back to traditional TV. She’s watched TV in the past, of course, but for most of the last 10 years she’s done without it.

She finds a lot of programs online to watch on her laptop for free — like the TED talks educational series — and every few months she gets together with friends to watch older TV shows on DVD, usually “something totally geeky,” like NBC’s “Chuck.”

The 24-hour news channels make her anxious or depressed, and buzz about the latest hot TV shows like “Mad Men” doesn’t make her feel like she’s missing out. She didn’t know who the Kardashian family was until she looked them up a few years ago.

“I feel absolutely no social pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect,” she says.

For Phelps, it’s less about saving money than choice. She says she’d rather spend her time productively and not get “sucked into” shows she’ll regret later.

“I don’t want someone else dictating the media I get every day,” she says. “I want to be in charge of it. When I have a TV, I’m less in control of that.”

The TV industry has a host of buzz words to describe these non-traditionalist viewers. There are “cord-cutters,” who stop paying for TV completely, and make do with online video and sometimes an antenna. There are “cord-shavers,” who reduce the number of channels they subscribe to, or the number of rooms pay TV is in, to save money.

Then there are the “cord-nevers,” young people who move out on their own and never set up a landline phone connection or a TV subscription. They usually make do with a broadband Internet connection, a computer, a cellphone and possibly a TV set that is not hooked up the traditional way.

That’s the label given to the group by Richard Schneider, the president and founder of the online retailer Antennas Direct. The site is doing great business selling antennas capable of accepting free digital signals since the nation’s transition to digital over-the-air broadcasts in 2009, and is on pace to sell nearly 600,000 units this year, up from a few dozen when it started in 2003.

While the “cord-nevers” are a target market for him, the category is also troubling. More people are raised with the power of the Internet in their pocket, and don’t know or care that you can pull TV signals from the air for free.

“They’re more aware of Netflix than they’re aware over-the-air is even available,” Schneider says.

That brings us to truck driver James Weitze. The 31-year-old satisfies his video fix with an iPhone. He often sleeps in his truck, and has no apartment. To be sure, he’s an extreme case who doesn’t fit into Nielsen’s definition of a household in the first place. But he’s watching Netflix enough to keep up with shows like “Weeds,” “30 Rock,” “Arrested Development,” “Breaking Bad,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

He’s not opposed to TV per se, and misses some ESPN sports programs like the “X Games.”

But he’s so divorced from the traditional TV ecosystem it could be hard to go back. It’s become easier for him to navigate his smartphone than to figure out how to use a TV set-top box and the button-laden remote control.

“I’m pretty tech savvy, but the TV industry with the cable and the television and the boxes, you don’t know how to use their equipment,” he says. “I try to go over to my grandma’s place and teach her how to do it. I can’t even figure it out myself.”


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696

Sinclair Preps 10 Stations for Mobile DTVKEYE Austin, WBFF Baltimore, WKRC Cincinnati among those to simulcast station signals to smartphones
By Michael Malone -Broadcasting & Cable, 4/2/13

Sinclair Broadcast Group is preparing 10 stations for mobile DTV and aims to broadcast mobile-capable signals to them over the next six months. The stations are KEYE Austin, WBFF Baltimore, WKRC Cincinnati, WKEF-WRGT Dayton, WLOS Asheville, WPGH Pittsburgh, KUTV Salt Lake City, WPEC West Palm Beach and KDNL St. Louis.

WSYX-WTTE Columbus are already doing so.

Consumers in these markets will get over-the-air content from the stations by adding a plug-in adaptor to their smartphones and tablets.

“As local broadcasters who serve our communities every day, we witness firsthand the value our content and services provide to millions of viewers and businesses,” said Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology at Sinclair and chairman of the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV standardization activity. “The pace of technology makes it imperative for broadcasters to continue to lead in serving our communities. Broad adoption of Mobile DTV, as a part of our local broadcast television offering, is the next step.”

Sinclair, a founding member of the Mobile500 Alliance, has agreed to commit certain of its Fox affiliates to operate within the Mobile Content Ventures’ Dyle initiative.

Sinclair has been growing its local TV footprint considerably, spending well over a billion dollars in the past 18 months on acquisitions.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696



Sinclair Transmits OFDM in Baltimore
First DVB-T2 trial completed
By Deborah D. McAdams, Television Tech Newsletter

BALTIMORE – Wednesday, March 27 was an auspicious day for the engineers at Sinclair in Balmer.

“This morning at 3:35 a.m. Eastern Time, we lit up the greater Baltimore/Washington market with 800-plus kW ERP of DVB-T2 (OFDM) power,” Sinclair’s Mark Aitken wrote to Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which is now at work on modernizing the broadcast television transmission standard. (Aitken is pictured at right in the forefront, with Mike Simon of Sinclair in the baseball hat; Acrodyne General Manager Andy Whiteside; and Stu Boughton of Acrodyne. Bill Soreth of Acrodyne also participated.)

For Aitken and others at Sinclair, the use of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing in the United States is a long-held conviction. Sinclair and its chief David Smith championed coded OFDM in the 1990s when the industry was preparing for the digital transition. Smith was thinking of mobile reception capabilities back then, for which COFDM was more suitable than eight-level vestigial sideband, or 8-VSB modulation. The latter nonetheless won the endorsement of the ATSC and was adopted as the U.S. transmission standard.

Sinclair has since doubled its TV station holdings to 112 stations in 61 markets, covering nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. The company also has continued to advocate for mobile DTV, through the Open Mobile Video Coalition, and the Mobile500. Last month, it was granted an experimental license by the Federal Communications Commission to test DVB-T2—Europe’s mobile broadcast modulation standard based on OFDM. (See Doug Lung’s “Details on WNUV’s Experimental License to Test OFDM.”)

Sinclair’s inaugural DVB-T2 trial, conducted on its CW affiate signal, WNUV-TV, coincided with a call from the ATSC for proposals on its so-called “next-generation” standard, version 3.0. It is clear to the ATSC and the industry in general that the current configuration, which locks broadcasters into using the MPEG-2 compression standard. MPEG-2 was sufficient for one high-definition video signal within a 6 MHz channel (as far as CBS was concerned), or several, lower-res multicast signals. It will not, however, accommodate 4K, or Ultra-HD, nor will the standard in general support advanced features such as targeted advertising and multiplatform distribution. (See “ATSC Seeks Proposals for 3.0 Physical Layer.”)

Sinclair’s Aitken said the company would continue to participate in the ATSC’s standards activities.

“Part of that participation may intersect needs to test and evaluate various systems and technologies,” Aitken wrote. “I would like to extend to ATSC that Sinclair will make every reasonable effort to provide support for its ongoing 3.0 activities by providing for the use and access to the WNUV facility to support experimental needs…. We are committed to no specific standard or provider.”

Aitken provided a “condensed engineering summary of the facility as licensed—a parallel IOT transmitter rated at 50 kW, running at 36 kW is the RF source.”

TSID: 1409 (0x0581)
DT- LIC:Ch. 40, Baltimore, Md., Est. population 8,518,396
1,223-foot, 845 kW DA (H) (57 Mile Contour / 10,534 Sq. Mi. Area)
(36 kW TPO + 15.27 dB gain = 845 kW ERP)
1,229-foot AGL (1044237); Full Service Filter
0.75-degree Electronic Beam Tilt; Dielectric TUD-C5SP-10/36SPH-1-B
N 39° 20’ 10” (39.336), W 76° 38’ 59” (-76.65) (S) (F) Television Hill, Md.

The DVB-T2 operating parameters were as follows:
16k ext FFT
GI 1/32
64 QAM
FEC 3/4

“The configuration we operated gave us additional data band-width yielding 24.92 Mbps— 30 percent more than standard ATSC—with a [carrier-to-noise ratio] of 15.1 dB—same as ATSC—with an [modulation error ratio] of 33.5 dB… and shoulders well within specs at -53dB or better at the output of the system,” Aitken said. “We were running and receiving HD programming. For the record, it was received over-the-air with a USB T2 receiver.”

Sinclair’s experimental license was granted Feb. 15, 2013 for a six-month period.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696



Satellite Adds Video Subscribers, Cable Dips
By Wayne Friedman, Television News Daily

U.S. multichannel video subscribers eked out a small gain in 2012 — coming from satellite and telco distributors.

SNL Kagan says the three TV distribution platforms added 46,000 video customers in 2012, getting to 100.4 million consumers. Kagan says the three primary TV platforms now account for 84.7% of the occupied homes in the U.S., down from a high point of 87.3% in first quarter 2010.

Most of that gain appears to have come in the fourth quarter, where Kagan says all the multichannel service providers in the U.S. collectively added 51,000 new customers. It says there were seasonally weak second and third quarters erased a 2012 first-quarter bump.

Cable TV distributors continued to lose ground, now at 56.4 million — but still the biggest U.S. TV multichannel distributor — a loss of 1.66 million subscribers versus 2011. The year before it lost 1.8 million.

Satellite TV distributors grew slightly, adding 288,000 customers to 34.1 million. Telco TV companies continued to have the biggest rise, 1.4 million to 9.9 million respectively. It had a 1.6 million gain in 2011.

Kagan says “the modest fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 subscriber growth suggests the segment is not rebounding with the broader economy, and customer formation is lagging the rebounding housing market.”

Read more:


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696



75 Percent of U.S. Homes Have HDTV Set A new study by the Leichtman Research Group also finds that 51 percent of HDTV households have more than one HDTV set.
By Michael Grotticelli 2013-02-13, BROADCAST ENGINEERING

Over the past five years, HDTV has grown from one-quarter of all U.S. households to three-quarters of all households, and many more households now have multiple HDTV sets.

Seventy-five percent of households in the United States have at least one HDTV set — up from 23 percent five years ago. Over the past five years, 52 percent of homes adopted HDTV.

In addition, a new study by Leichtman Research Group, based in Durham, NH, found 51 percent of HDTV households have more than one HDTV, compared to 22 percent five years ago. Overall, about 38 percent of all homes now have multiple HDTV sets — up from about 26 percent of two years ago, and five percent all households five years ago. About 59 percent of TV sets in HD households are HDTVs.

The study’s finding showed that 84 percent with annual household incomes over $50,000 have an HDTV.

These findings are based on a survey of 1252 households throughout the United States, and are part of a new LRG study, called HDTV and 3D TV X. This is LRG’s tenth annual study related to HDTV.

The study’s finding showed that 84 percent with annual household incomes over $50,000 have an HDTV — compared to 73 percent with household incomes of $30,000-$50,000, and 56 percent with household incomes under $30,000.

Among those getting HD programming from a cable, satellite or telco TV provider, the perceived mean number of channels of HD programming is 77 — up from 63 two years ago, and 29 five years ago.

Roughly 6 percent of all U.S. households currently have an HDTV set that is 3-D-capable — 41 percent of this group do not watch any content in 3-D. Overall, 47 percent have seen a 3D TV, or have a 3-D-capable TV — compared to 24 percent two years ago.

About 22 percent of all households purchased a new TV set in the past 12 months. The mean reported purchase price was $680 — about 30 percent less than five years ago. The finding show that 14 percent of all households plan to purchase a new TV set in the next 12 months — compared to 19 percent last year, and 17 percent five years ago.

“Over the past five years, HDTV has grown from one-quarter of all U.S. households to three-quarters of all households, and many more households now have multiple HDTV sets,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “Today, about 47 percent of all TV sets in US households are HDTVs, compared to 11 percent just five years ago.”

While HDTV set purchases have grown dramatically, many television stations in the United States have lagged far behind the trend. Less than a year ago, another research firm, Positive Flux, found that only 38 percent of U.S. television stations have made their internal production and master control systems fully HD-compatible.

Although all stations pass their network’s HD feed, many have merely inserted an HD bypass switcher to air network content and therefore still need cost-effective solutions to upgrade their master control facilities.

Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


Court Denies Fox Injunction Against Dish’s Hopper But Fox Says Sealed Decision also Finds AutoHop Copies Violate Copyright, Contract
By John Eggerton 2012-11-08 01:42:00

DISH AutoHopFox confirms that a California District Court has denied its request that the court block Dish Network’s commercial-skipping Hopper DVR service, but says the court also concluded the AutoHop function is copyright infringement. Dish says the decision says something very different.

The court’s decision was sealed, but since it has been reported, Fox provided the following comment.

“As reported, the court denied Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction. But we are gratified the court found the copies Dish makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties’ contract.”

Fox said it was disappointed that the court did not find that the damages stemming from that infringement warranted a preliminary injunction–there is a multi-part test for such injunctions, including the damage stemming from not enjoining the conduct–and said it planned to appeal that part of the decision, as well as another portion of the decision related to Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime service.

“Dish is marketing and benefiting from an unauthorized VOD service that illegally copies Fox’s valuable programming,” Fox said.

“It’s great news that the court has resisted Fox’s attempt to shut down Dish’s product, before there has even been a trial on the merits of the case,” said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, which backed Dish in the suit. “Consumers have a right to record television programs and watch them later in the manner of their choosing.”

Dish reads the court decision quite differently.

“[Wednesday]’s ruling is a victory for common sense and customer choice,” noted R. Stanton Dodge, Dish executive vice president and general counsel. “Dish is gratified that the Court has sided with consumer choice and control by rejecting Fox’s efforts to deny our customers access to PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop — key features of the Hopper Whole-Home DVR.”

In outlining the decision as it saw it, Dish said that:

“Contrary to Fox’s assertion, Dish customers using PrimeTime Anytime cannot be liable for copyright infringement; “Copies made using the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime feature do not infringe on Fox’s exclusive reproduction rights under federal copyright laws; “Neither the AutoHop commercial-skipping feature nor the PrimeTime Anytime feature constitutes unauthorized distribution under federal copyright laws; “AutoHop does not violate the Video-On-Demand provisions of the 2010 retransmission consent agreement (RTC) between Fox and Dish.” Dish concedes that the decision finds that copies Dish makes as part of a “quality assurance” AutoHop function likely violate copyright and its contract,” but points to the finding that does not constitute irreparable harm, warranting an injunction.

Jon Lafayette contributed to this story

Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


OTT TV Cuts Into Cable, Satellite Share

By Wayne Friedman — MediaDailyNews
(Image by Shutterstock: Watching-TV)

OTT TVAlthough low-cost over-the-top TV services continue to gain steam, a somewhat older multichannel TV provider will continue to grow.

Dallas-based media researcher Parks Associates says IPTV subscribers will more than double in five years to some 18 million from the current subscriber base of 8.8 million. This will give the business an 18% share.

As a result, the two other multichannel TV services will decline — cable industry share will fall to 52% from 60%, and satellite will decline to 30% from 35% by 2017. This will leave cable with 56.1 million subscribers in five years, and satellite businesses with around 30 million.

“The era of huge subscriber gains in the U.S. pay-TV market is over,” stated Jim O’Neill, research analyst of Parks Associates. “Cable TV providers are losing subscribers to IPTV services from AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink.”

He adds: “Satellite providers also will experience subscriber loss as telcos continue to expand fiber footprints, leverage pricing on triple- and quad-play bundles, and offer advanced TV Everywhere products. Going forward, subscriber retention will become the focus for cable and satellite providers.”

Parks Associates says large cable operators such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable are already shifting their messaging and packages to emphasize their high-speed services. Another major factor is Google, as a new possible market-making force, which is starting up Google Fiber in Kansas City.

Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


Sony Unveils its First Consumer 4K TV84-inch XBR-84X900 will be available in select N. American retail locations for an undisclosed price later this year.

By George Winslow — Broadcasting & Cable, 8/9/2012 2:43:53 PM

NEW YORK—Sony has announced the debut of its first 4K TV, an LCD panel that delivers images at four times (3840×2160) the resolution of full HD. The 84-inch XBR-84X900 will be available in select N. American retail locations for an undisclosed price later this year. The company made the announcement in advance of the IFA Show in Germany.

With the majority of U.S. homes now with HDTV sets—and little consumer interest in 3DTV, consumer electronics manufacturers have recently been touting 4K as the “next big thing” in visual imaging. At CES in January, several companies, including Samsung, Vizio, Philips, LG Electronics, and Toshiba, were showing prototypes of 4K TVs, some on OLED technology, which is also expected to play a role in the future of home displays.

But with little 4K content (or a way to distribute it to consumers), it could be awhile before consumers are able to take advantage of true 4K, which is now mainly relegated to digital cinema installations. Sony says more than 12,500 4K digital cinema projectors are in use worldwide and that its flagship F65 CineAlta 4K camera will spur more 4K content creation. Sony’s first 4K consumer item, the VPL-VW1000ES 4K home theater projector, was announced last year and is available through custom installers.

“Our professional division continues to see the migration toward 4K content creation with major film and broadcast productions,” said Brian Siegel, vice president of Sony Electronics TV Group.

For non-4K content, the XBR-84X900 uses Sony’s proprietary upscaling technology which incorporates the company’s 4K X-Reality PRO picture engine. The display is also 3D-capable and comes with passive 3D glasses.

The XBR-84X900 also incorporates a 10 Unit Live Speaker system for 5.1 with detachable side speakers as well as full network connectivity, allowing consumers control of their viewing experience via a tablet or smartphone with the downloadable Media Remote App. With built-in WiFi they can access movies, TV shows, and online video and music through the Sony Entertainment Network suite of services including Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, Netflix, Pandora, Yahoo! Broadcast Interactivity and more than 50 other popular internet entertainment providers.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


High-Def TV Advertising Up 150% Since 2010
But only 25% of TV ads are delivered in HD and only 53% of local stations can accept HD spots, according to a new report from Extreme Reach

By George Winslow — Broadcasting & Cable, 8/9/2012 2:43:53 PM

Much progress has been made in the area of HD advertising, with the proportion of HD ads being delivered to TV outlets increasing by 150% between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2012, according to a new report from video ad distribution and services provider Extreme Reach Inc. The research also found that 69% of all TV outlets are now capable of receiving and airing HD ads.

But the “Q2 2012 HD Advertising Trends Report” also highlights that HD advertisements continue to lag far behind consumer usage, accounting for only 25% of all ads, even though over 70% of all American homes now have an HD set. The report also noted that the proportion of ads being delivered in HD has increased relatively slowly from the end of the fourth quarter of 2011, when 23% were HD.

Local broadcasters also continued lag in both viewer adoption and the rest of the U.S. industry, with only 53% of local stations being able to accept and air HD ads, much lower than local cable (74%), network broadcast (73%) and national cable (76%).

Still the poor record of broadcast station in HD advertising represents a significant improvement over the second quarter of 2010, when only 10% of stations could air high def ads.

Among advertisers, the report found that political advertisers are leading the push to HD adoption, with 51% of political commercials being delivered in HD in the second quarter of 2012, up from 8% in second quarter of 2010. Over the same period, entertainment spots delivered in HD increased from 17% to 50%, financial services grew from 29% to 44, retail increased from 13% to 26% and automotive grew from 16% to 26%.

An additional trend outlined in the report is the movement of TV advertisers to advanced cloud-based solutions for ad distribution. This shift has enabled TV advertisers who use the cloud for ad distribution to deliver an average of 98.5 percent of their SD and HD ads digitally.

“HD TV advertising has seen tremendous growth since 2010, and I think the rise of cloud computing has really helped move the industry forward into high definition” said Dan Brackett, chief technology officer of Extreme Reach in a statement. “By taking advantage of advanced Cloud-based solutions, advertisers have been able to leverage higher performance/lower cost workflows, and those efficiencies have helped fuel the rapid growth in HD advertising.”

For this study, the Extreme Reach Research Group analyzed and referenced data from a sample of 1,900 active television advertisers across 28 verticals and 615 active video production studios and content providers. The study includes nearly every commercial television and cable broadcast outlet in the United States and Canada, including all major broadcast networks, and draws from a sample of 270,000 SD and HD commercial deliveries completed over the three-month period between April 1 and June 30, 2012.



Stations not yet handling HDTV advertising should ask themselves what percentage of advertisers have HDTV sets, what percentage of advertisers want to reach upscale viewers, and what percentage of effectiveness does HDTV add for their advertisers.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


I Want my IPTV!
The Growth of the Connected Television

New technology increases sample sizes in markets

August 1, 2012

As new ways to consume media give viewers greater choice of how, when, and where to watch, an old standby—the television—is making headway in the race for market cachet.

Americans spend 35 hours each week watching content across screens, and 94 percent of that is still on a traditional television. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), which allows viewers a direct connection to video that is watchable on the living room TV but streamed from the Web, is gaining traction.

Internet Protocol TV” has grown dramatically over the course of the last year. People talk about ‘the TV is dead, or that it’s dying,’ but it doesn’t look like it yet,” said Pat McDonough, Nielsen’s SVP Insights Analysis and Policy.

Traditional TV distribution—such as broadcast or cable—and watching on a TV set continues to be the dominant means of ingesting video content. Much like eReaders, which saw small but noticeable gains in penetration in the last three quarters of 2011, but have since made nice strides and has Q1 2012 penetration at 21 percent, IPTV seems to be following suit and market penetration is on the rise. As of February 2012, 10.4 percent of homes had an IPTV, compared to just 4.7 percent that same month a year prior, according to a recent Nielsen study.

The emergence of IPTV is one of a growing number of viewing options to emerge over the past decade and continues to compete with a gaggle of other advances for market share. Unlike other burgeoning tech-sector technologies, IPTV functionality is being built right into current and future generations of televisions, which could drive an increase in usage as penetration increases.

In October 2011 the use of the Internet feature in IPTV-enabled homes was estimated at about 2 percent of their TV use. In February 2012 it jumped to about 5 percent in Internet-enabled homes.

While traditional TV is still the major player in most households, viewing options are ever-evolving. DVRs now appear in 44 percent of homes, up almost 80 percent since 2007. Conversely, some devices—once seen as tech breakthroughs—are falling off. VCRs and DVDs are down over that same time period, serving as a reminder to marketers, manufacturers and consumers alike that the only constant is change.

Learn more about the video consumer.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696



Nielsen Announces Plan to Upgrade Local Ratings
New technology increases sample sizes in markets

By Jon Lafayette — Broadcasting & Cable, 7/20/2012 12:01:00 AM

Facing tough competition and complaints from customers, Nielsen said it plans to dramatically increase the size of the sample it uses to measure TV viewership in local markets.

Nielsen also said its moves would build a foundation for cross-platform measurement of media on a local basis.

After years of operating as a monopoly, Nielsen’s local ratings business has been challenged by Rentrak. Unlike Nielsen, which uses set-top meters and paper diaries from a sampling of viewers to extrapolate show many viewers are watching a station or program, Rentrak relies on data from a larger number of cable and satellite set-top boxes.

Last month, Sinclair Broadcast Group replaced Nielsen with Rentrak at four stations recently acquired from Four Points Media Group.

Rentrak says its local-TV measurement service has 165 station clients in 82 markets, up from 75 stations a year ago.

Nielsen says it will begin upgrading its local audience ratings in 20 introductory markets. It will employ a hybrid measurement methodology combining existing sample panels, new Code Reader technology and return path data from set top boxes.

Three of the markets to be upgraded in the fourth quarter — St. Louis, Dallas and Charlotte — use local people meters. Next to be upgraded are five set meter markets: Nashville, Greenville, Birmingham, Albuquerque and New Orleans. Nielsen says it will announced 12 diary markets to be upgraded shortly.

Nielsen says it upgrade effectively quadruples the sample size in local people meter and set meter markets and doubles the size in diary markets, resulting in more stable and projectable data.

“Our clients’ priorities are clear: improved ratings stability and cross-platform measurement,” Matt O’Grady, executive VP and managing director of Local Media at Nielsen, said in a statement. “Nielsen will dramatically increase sample sizes while maintaining the critical principle of market representation. Additionally, Nielsen has developed market leading computer, tablet, and smart phone meters to capture all viewers, all consumers, all segments. This will be the foundation for cross-platform measurement.”

“We believe that the substantial sample size increase anticipated will be a big improvement for stabilizing ratings Jim Babb, executive VP and COO for Bahakel Communication said a part of Nielsen’s announcement “The new ‘code reader’ combined with set-top-box return path data are a promising strategy for increasing sample sizes. We’re pleased that Nielsen is taking the initiative both to improve its legacy TV ratings service while also investing in timely preparation for an emerging cross-platform media environment ahead.”

“Nielsen’s unique new metering technology, the code reader, shows true promise and will be a more reliable form of data collection than the current state of return path data, which has certain limitations in measuring viewers,” Brad Adgate, senior VP and director of research at Horizon Media, added as part of Nielsen’s announcement.

Nielsen says preliminary data will become available for the twenty introductory markets in 2013. All markets will have a parallel period of three to six months to evaluate, comment, and prepare for the new ratings while using the existing service. Rollouts across the 190 remaining markets are expected to be completed within approximately two years from gaining client acceptance in the introductory markets, according to Nielsen.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696



Survey: Mobile DTV Could Change TV Viewing Habits
68% said they would watch more TV if they had access to live mobile TV services, according to Mobile Content Venture

By George Winslow — Broadcasting & Cable, 7/13/2012 12:35:58 PM

A new survey finds strong interest in the mobile digital TV services broadcasters are planning to launch later this year, with nearly seven in 10 (68%) of respondents saying that live mobile TV would increase their television viewing, according to “The Dyle Mobile TV Data Report” released by the Mobile Content Venture.

“These results show that live TV remains an important part of people’s lives,” said Salil Dalvi and Erik Moreno, co-general managers of the Mobile Content Venture in a statement. “As people upgrade to smartphones and tablets, live TV is a must-have service. Whether you are a wireless carrier or a cable/satellite operator, it seems clear that enabling the ‘living room experience’ on the go can be a smart business opportunity. The exciting part of all of this is that the technology to deliver this experience in a truly scaleable way is finally here.”

The survey of 510 U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 was conducted by Research Now. The Mobile Content Venture is a joint venture consisting of 12 major broadcast groups, Fox, Ion Television and NBC that plan to launch the Dyle mobile TV service this year.

Other highlights of the study include the finding that over 50% of consumers would consider watching mobile TV on smartphones and tablets and that smartphones and tablets will be key devices for receiving the signal, with 61% saying they would like to access mobile DTV services on a smart phone and 54% saying they would like to view the broadcasts on their tablet.

In terms of the service’s benefits, 69% cited “being entertained on the go,” followed by “staying informed/being in the know” (61%), “keeping kids occupied” (56%), “less worry about missing important TV” (48%), “in case of an emergency” (43%), and “feeding my sports addiction” (31%).

The survey highlighted the importance of news and weather even though this content is readily available online. About 81% said they would be likely to view local news and weather, followed by movies (79%), national news (75%), sitcoms (69%), sports (66%), children’s cartoons (65%), drama (64%) and reality fare (53%).

The survey also provided data on a variety of occasions when people were likely to use the service. These include killing time while waiting (85%), entertainment while in transit (76%), entertaining kids in the car (74%), as an additional TV at home (63%), staying connected at sporting events (53%), at the gym (52%), and sneaking some TV time at work (44%).

While proponents of mobile DTV services have struggled to line-up mobile phone carriers as partners for their services, the survey also found that adding the service to a mobile service could help carriers gain market share. About three fifths (61%) of consumers said they would be somewhat or very likely to switch cellphone providers to get mobile TV.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


Direct TV pulls plug on 24-hour 3d Channel
By STEVE DONOHUE — Fierce Cable, 12:15 AM, June 19, 2012

Just two years after it launched one of the first 24-hour channels dedicated to 3D programming, DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) said it has converted its n3D channel to a part-time programming channel that will feature occasional events such as NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

DirecTV teamed up with Panasonic (NYSE: PC) to launch a trio of n3D channels, including a 24-hour channel programmed with movies, documentaries and other 3D content, an n3D pay-per-view channel and video-on-demand channel. But the top satellite-TV provider has struggled to acquire enough 3D content needed to program a dedicated 3D channel.

“While 3D adoption continues to grow and more programming is being developed, DirecTV has decided to move n3D to a part-time channel,” DirecTV said in a statement. The company noted that it still offers subscribers 3D programming from ESPN and 3net, the 3D channel owned by Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX.

Consumer Reports first reported the n3D news Thursday.

DirecTV’s n3D move is a setback for CE manufacturers that had hoped interest in 3D programming would spur sales of widescreen HDTVs with 3D capabilities. It’s not the first dedicated 3D channel to fold. In January, France’s Canal Plus shuttered its 3D network, citing a “lack of enthusiasm among subscribers” for 3D programming.

While 3D programming has lost momentum, the sector could eventually see a revival with the launch of autostereoscopic, or glasses-free 3DTVs. ESPN may also be able to drive more interest in 3D programming in 2014, when it plans to begin shooting National Football League games in 3D.

For more:
– Consumer Reports has this story



The above article was published in Fierce Cable.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696


More folks watching TV for free
By CLAIRE ATKINSON — New York Post, 12:15 AM, June 19, 2012

Rabbit ears are multiplying.

Hit with rising cable bills and a weak economy, more Americans, especially young adults and lower-income families, are catching their shows using classic antennas.

Nearly 18 percent of all US households with TVs are watching old-fashioned broadcasts delivered for free over the airwaves, up from 15 percent of homes last year, according to research firm GfK Media.

That means 20.7 million homes, or roughly 54 million consumers, now get channels over the air instead of paying a monthly cable or satellite bill.

Despite all the talk about “cord cutting” and people watching shows online, this marks the first year since the recession that the firm has seen a notable uptick in broadcast-only viewers, as sustained unemployment takes a toll on household budgets.

From 2008 to 2010, 14 percent of the 114.7 million TV households were cable- and satellite-free. Last year, that figure ticked up by 1 percentage point. This year saw a 3 percentage-point gain.

“That really was a change,” David Tice, GfK senior vice president, told The Post. “I haven’t bought into the cord-cutting thing, but this was the first year we really saw a significant increase in the numbers of broadcast- only households.”

According to the study, 6 percent of TV households, or 6.9 million homes, canceled their cable service at some point in the past and now rely on free broadcasts.

GfK’s report also found that 16 percent of households downgraded TV service this year through March, while only 11 percent of TV households said they had increased service.

Some cable operators, such as Cablevision, have held the line on price increases. Meanwhile, Verizon took the opposite tack yesterday, saying it would raise prices for its FiOS TV and Internet service in return for faster connection speeds.

Tice also noted that people using Web-connected TV increased to 34 million households, or 29 percent — almost double the previous year’s 16 percent.



The above article was written by Claire Atkinson – New York Post. It represents the opinion of the author.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696
Charles Bichara


FCC Proposing To Sunset Dual-Carriage
Viewability Rule

Order Would Extend Small-Operator HD Waiver for Three More Years
By John Eggerton — Multichannel News, 6/6/2012 7:42:41 PM

Cable operators will no longer be required to provide both an analog and digital versions of must-carry TV station signals as of December 2012 if FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gets his way, with low-cost converter boxes considered a sufficient vehicle for allowing analog customers to continue to view TV station signals.

That would be a win for cable operators, who had been looking to get out from under the mandate–though they had voluntarily agreed to dual carriage to help out in the DTV transition. It would be a defeat for broadcasters, who had pushed to retain the rule.

An order, which has been circulated to the commissioners, according to a source close to one of those commissioners, says that cable operators will no longer have to provide an analog version of a TV station digital signals to their analog cable customers starting Dec. 11, 2012–providing a 6-month transition period beyond the June 12 sunset date of the three-year mandate.

It also requires cable operators to provide plenty of notice to their analog customers.

“We believe the viewability requirement is best read to give the operator of a hybrid system [digital and analog] greater flexibility in deciding how to comply with the viewability mandate,” the order reads. “In particular, while such an operator may continue to carry must-carry signals in a format that is capable of being viewed by analog service customers without the use of additional equipment, rapid changes in the marketplace and technology, in particular the widespread availability of small digital set-top boxes [that] cable operators make available at low or not cost to analog customers of hybrid systems provide alternative means by which must-carry television signals can be made viewable to all analog customers.”

According to an order circulating at the FCC in advance of a June 12 deadline for action, the commission is proposing to sunset the viewability requirement that cable operators deliver all TV stations’ digital signals in analog format to analog customers or, alternatively, make sure all its customers have the equipment to view a digital signal.

The FCC in issuing its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in February indicated that “the available market evidence seems to indicate that the viewability requirements remain important to consumers.” The order concludes that viewability remains important, but can be achieved through low-cost boxes currently being offered, rather than a dual carriage mandate.

It also stresses the benefits of using the analog capacity for new digital channels and increased broadband, which is one of the FCC’s major focuses.

“The low-cost set-top box offers reflected in our record will satisfy our new interpretation of the viewability requirement,” says the order, according to a source reading from the document, “permitting the cable operator to make the must-carry signal available by offering analog customers the necessary digital equipment at an affordable cost.” For example, says the commission, “we note that Comcast for a period of time after migrating a system to all digital, typically offers two or three free DTA’s [digital boxes] to customers, and charges lessthan two dollars for additional boxes.” It also points to Bright House’s offer of boxes for $1 a month. While the order does not require cable to continue to offer low-cost boxes–and the FCC cannot rate regulate the prices–it “strongly urges all operators not to raise those prices,” says the source.

The FCC decided in September 2007 that in order to ensure that all must-carry TV stations are viewable by all subscribers after the switch to all-digital broadcasting, cable operators, for a period of three years, would be required–in addition to carrying digital signals–to convert digital signals to analog, either at the headend or with converter boxes, for their analog cable customers. Cable called that a “dual-carriage” mandate at odds with earlier FCC rulings, while broadcasters framed it as a clarification an the existing “viewability” mandate for must-carry stations.

In comments to the FCC in March, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it was ready to get out from under the mandate, saying it was consumer-unfriendly, unwieldy, no longer justifiable in a fiercely competitive marketplace, and unconstitutional.

NCTA argued that operators need the bandwidth being taken up by continued analog and digital carriage of must-carry stations for more consumer-friendly uses like over-the-top video. It points out that the monopoly tag the Supreme Court put on cable in upholding must carry narrowly (5-4) in the Turner decision no longer applies, and even if it did, a dual-carriage mandate would not hold up even under intermediate First Amendment scrutiny today, when cable no longer has the “bottleneck” control over access to customers.

The order, if approved, would be a dual victory for cable operators since it will extend for three years a waiver for smaller cable operators from the mandate that cable operators deliver broadcasters’ HD signals in HD to all their customers, whether or not they get cable channels in HD, something the American Cable Association had pushed for.

At press time, the other commissioners had not voted the item, though they must do so by June 12 or both the HD waiver and the viewability rule would sunset immediately. Circulating the item is effectively the chairman’s “yes” vote.

The issue has been getting a lot of attention as the June 12 deadline drew near, with black churches having vowed to protest the FCC and NCTA headquarters over the potential sunset.



The above article was written By John Eggerton — Multichannel News, 6/6/2012. It represents the opinion of the author.


Hal Protter, Chairperson
NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee
Office 805-529-0742  Cell 314-708-3696