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No Stopping Multicast


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10 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 08:17 AM

"As much as cable and satellite TV
would like to see it go away, talk
about multicast is here to stay."


SkyFILES: by Michael Hopkins

The issue of whether multiplatform providers should be forced to carry the extra streams of video embedded in a TV station's digital signal has ruffled feathers on both sides. Cable doesn't want to be required to offer multicast content from a local TV station. Broadcasters suggest they cannot get their multicast channels off the ground unless the programming wins distribution on cable (and, presumably, satellite TV).

At the moment, multicast must-carry is not on the D.C. agenda. Capitol Hill lawmakers have bigger fish to fry, such as the nation's transition to digital TV and indecent and violent programming. At the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Kevin Martin does not have enough support to order multicast must-carry for multiplatform providers.

But that doesn't mean the fight will stop. Martin is a big fan of multicast. And the main TV station lobby inside the Beltway, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), still sees multicast must-carry as an important issue.

Nonetheless, it's not as if multicast content isn't gaining carriage on cable.

LATV, a Los Angeles-based programmer that offers TV stations around the nation content for their multicast streams, said local affiliates have won cable carriage for its programming in 90 percent of the markets it serves. Multicast feeds of NBC Weather Plus have cable carriage in several cities.

As one proponent of multicast told us, a cable operator will carry multicast streams if they contain compelling content and the price is right. Also, chances are a broadcaster will make multicast carriage a part of any discussions concerning retransmission consent for local TV stations.

Given those factors, why should there be a multicast must-carry mandate? Let market forces decide what content is delivered to the masses.

(In the meantime, check out this week's BRIDGE on broadcaster efforts in the multiplatform business, including multicast, at: http://www.thebridgemediagroup.com.)

www.SkyReport.com - used with permission

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#2 OFFLINE   Earl Bonovich

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 08:22 AM

I see this as a MUCH bigger deal for the DBS carriers, then the cable-co's.

Since Cable-Co's are area based... they are looking at what... average of 1 sub-channel per network.... so they are adding maybe 20ish channels in each region on average (give or take).

But on the DBS systems... you are talking about adding another 4000 channels (20 per DMA, roughly 200 DMA's)

Now if they can work out something and replace all the hardware out there, so they can receive the HD versions of the channels (Which takes the place of the primary channel in most dma's), then turn off the SD versions, and use that space for the extra sub-channels....

Then it is not as much of an impact to the bandwith usage....
But if they are going to dictate "must-carry" for the multicasted channels....

Basiclly, all these new sats that DirecTV and EchoStar are launching are for "nothing", and we will be back into a bandwith crunch shortly after any such regulation goes into effect.
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#3 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 08:31 AM

Personally, I'd like most multicast to go away or to other frequency assignments. The HD streams are often bit starved at the full data rate allowed in the first place, especially for sports coverage.

I suppose I don't mind some of the PBS multicasts; they often have excellent programming divergent from the main channel.

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#4 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 10:24 AM

But on the DBS systems... you are talking about addiong another 4000 channels (20 per DMA, roughly 20 DMA's)


20x20=400, not 4000... but I know there are more than 20 DMAs... so I'm guessing 200 DMAs is what you meant?

Just having some fun with your typo here... I know the DBS impact is HUGE, and lots of folks don't take that into consideration.

Now if they can work out something and replace all the hardware out there, so they can receive the HD versions of the channels (Which takes the place of the primary channel in most dma's), then turn off the SD versions, and use that space for the extra sub-channels....

Then it is not as much of an impact to the bandwith usage....
But if they are going to dictate "must-carry" for the multicasted channels....

Basiclly, all these new sats that DirecTV and EchoStar are launching are for "nothing", and we will be back into a bandwith crunch shortly after any such regulation goes into effect.


Absolutely... IF all the receivers in the field get upgraded in the next year, this is something they could do... but I'm guessing the field-replacement to get all the new MPEG4 receivers in the field is going to take many years... so I wonder how long before the multi-cast-must-carry gets forced on DBS and sucks up all our available bandwidth. :(

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#5 OFFLINE   BobaBird

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 04:58 PM

Not that I'm in favor of sub-channel carriage, especially when it duplicates the provider's offerings, but does a set of ".1" - ".x" channels take any more bandwidth than a full, lone .1 HD channel? If there's a commitment to carrying HD, having the subs really shouldn't be a problem.
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#6 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 05:04 PM

Not that I'm in favor of sub-channel carriage, especially when it duplicates the provider's offerings, but does a set of ".1" - ".x" channels take any more bandwidth than a full, lone .1 HD channel? If there's a commitment to carrying HD, having the subs really shouldn't be a problem.


I almost asked that myself. The OTA stations clearly have a fixed bandwidth per channel to work with... and either have a full-res HD channel, or several SD channels, or some tweaked combination in between... but always within that same bandwidth. Also in that bandwidth has to be overhead for the channel, station-ID for the subchannels, and in some cases some guide info.

So on the surface it seems like DBS should be able to carry multichannel in the same bandwidth, doing the same kind of sacrifice of quality that the OTA channel does to squeeze into the bandwidth.

Unless there is something we are missing... I really don't see why this has to be an issue that creates a problem.

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#7 OFFLINE   Tom Robertson

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 05:24 PM

There are some possibilities here: While broadcast bandwidth is strictly limited by the channel assignments, the bandwidth from affiliate to carrier (cable, DIRECTV, and Dish) could be higher on the main channel than the bandwidth broadcast for that channel. (not sure if that actually occurs, but it is possible.) Anyway, the big issue is likely encoders more than bandwidth. At this point each sub channel takes a separate whole encoder and thems things ain't cheap! Thus, any sub-channel likely has to pay for itself in some fashion to get carried.

Cheers,
Tom

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#8 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 06:26 PM

It would be nice if cable and satellite companies could say "we'll give you x amount of space" and let the stations choose what to fill it with, the same way they choose to fill their OTA bandwidth. If the local station wants to ruin it's HD feed for SD it is their choice.

Unfortunately the satellite company would get the blame if the picture was not just as clear on satellite as it was OTA (or at least close).
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#9 OFFLINE   texasbrit

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 06:30 PM

There are some possibilities here: While broadcast bandwidth is strictly limited by the channel assignments, the bandwidth from affiliate to carrier (cable, DIRECTV, and Dish) could be higher on the main channel than the bandwidth broadcast for that channel. (not sure if that actually occurs, but it is possible.) Anyway, the big issue is likely encoders more than bandwidth. At this point each sub channel takes a separate whole encoder and thems things ain't cheap! Thus, any sub-channel likely has to pay for itself in some fashion to get carried.

Cheers,
Tom


I think the additional equipment (encoders etc) is the biggest factor, plus the way in which some stations only have subchannels during the day and switch them off to run HD in the evening.

#10 OFFLINE   Jon Ellis

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 10:56 PM

20 subchannels per market would be a pretty high estimate...there are 20 stations in the top few markets, but it gets down to about a dozen stations by the mid-markets and 5 or less in the smallest markets. Of course, many small-market stations are running 2 or 3 subchannels.

Ultimately, it's not the network affiliates but the small stations that will suffer if must-carry doesn't apply to subchannels. Almost all network affiliates opt for retransmission consent rather than must-carry, and will be able to stipulate that their subchannels be carried. The smaller stations that opt for must-carry will have no means of forcing carriage for their subchannels.

Cable and satellite might not be as hesitant to carry these subchannels if there weren't so many that seem to fall into the "screensaver" category...a loop of somewhat dated weather forecasts repeating every 15 minutes with a whole lot of useless information scrolling across the screen. They'd probably be OK with ONE weather channel per market, but not one from every station. Actual programming is more desirable.

#11 OFFLINE   kenglish

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 10:21 AM

The BEST solution for all this, would be to stop allowing Cable TV and Satellite to be the "gatekeepers" that determine what channels are allowed to be seen in peoples' homes, apartments, and condos.

As long as they have a stranglehold, due to their being "the only way in" to many MDUs (multi-dwelling units) like apartments and condos, where many residents don't have antenna options, they need to carry all the legal local channels.

It's like, if your HOA decided to let some magazine publishing empire take over the mail delivery in your complex. "Sorry, we don't carry/deliver that magazine, but here's a substitute from our own lineup that you can purchase".

Now, put a good OTA antenna system in every building, and then I'll change my tune. (BTW, Cable is looking at OTA DTV tuners for their next-gen STBs).




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