I’ve so many faith-based broadcasters ask me about where we are in the digital transition, I wanted to update people on when, where, and how it’s happening. I went to my friend Stephen Rosen at TV Magic, to get the latest information:
As of today, Congress has mandated Feb 17, 2009 as the day that NTSC, analog, goes away and DTV begins. DTV IS NOT HD. There is no requirement that broadcasters put an HD signal on their DTV transmissions. That said, there is a very interested model being worked on by broadcasters to use their over the air bandwidth for multi-casting. Namely, putting multiple digital program signals on air within the allocated frequency and bandwidth. This may be a combination of 1 HD and several SD, or, just several SD. By the time we get to 2009, the compressions schemes could allow much more flexibility on the number of multi-cast channels possible.
Items of note:
SD can still be 16×9 as 16×9 is an aspect ratio and not a resolution, i.e. 480P, 720P, 1080i, etc…
FCC required all broadcasters to have their DTV transmissions up and running effective July 2006 – most have made it and are running BOTH analog (NTSC) and digital (DTV) programming as of today
There is some discussion now, with the democratic Congress, that they may change this 2009 date under the belief that there are funding and other issues associated with “old” televisions that won’t decode the CTV signal and the gov’ts feelings that they need to subsidize this group
There is no requirement for sat delivered, or cable delivered, or other than over the air broadcasters to make this transition
The transition is just NTSC goes bye bye, and digital (DTV) begins as the only over the air format – broadcasters will be required to “turn off” their analog transmitters
At CES, there are new requirements that all NEW televisions, (for 42” and bigger this has already been in effect) have the ability to decode a digital signal without the use of an external box – of course this will remain a problem for older TV’s that are analog only and therefore, the subsidy issue in number 3 above
IMPORTANT – as of today – there is NO requirement for cable co’s to must carry anything but the primary channel from the local broadcasters. This means, secondary multi-cast channels are not guaranteed cable shelf space
My guess, my crystal ball, most over the air broadcasters will have an HD channel as their primary over the air channel which will be rebroadcast on cable effective Feb 17, 2009. That said, I don’t see the REQUIREMENT to produce in HD, only the advantages of producing in HD versus SD. Also, by 2009, I’m guessing here based on pricing trends I see in the market, but, I figure it will cost less or the same to build an HD infrastructure versus an SD making the decision a bit easier – HD.