I got there through several levels of indirection, but a post in LINUX JOURNAL by Doc Searls entitled What’s Next for Open Source and Public Media? got me thinking about the impending doom of analog “terrestrial” television in the US and how it may well kill off, as collateral damage, the broadcasting model for TV here in the US. Yes, he gets close to saying this in his post, but I hadn’t thought about it so directly before.
The FCC regulates the airwaves in the US and next year they’re taking back the portions of the RF spectrum that have been devoted to analog television (broadly-separated frequency bands for VHF in the 1950s with a UHF band of frequencies added to that later on), and the broadcast digital television that’s been “under construction” since 1998 will be what’s left. The new technology can carry more channels and information, and much of that in high-definition, but old television receivers will be unable to decode it.
I’d guess that many people simply won’t convert. Cable and satellite TV users won’t be affected and their old TV sets will work, but millions of old analog sets around the US – those who depends on rooftop antennas and rabbit ears – will receive nothing but “snow.”
And where will Mom and Pop Public go?
Well I’m on satellite, using a TiVo box (a DVR), and I long ago time-shifted almost all of my viewing. I no longer know exactly when my favorite shows are broadcast because the TiVo records them and I watch them when I have a spare evening. Like most time-shifted viewers, I mostly shift “scripted shows” (Lost and Battlestar Galactica, for example) as opposed to news and shows with real-time content.
Well, here’s where I think the viewing will migrate, based on Doc Searls’ and my own experience.
- Some will switch to cable or satellite; and will increasingly move to time-shifted viewing [notes: networks want to take time-shifted viewing into account when setting advertising rates; Nielsen ratings did not take time-shifted viewing into account until 2006 – now it seems everything is tracked.] Cable and satellite are not affected by the 2009 FCC-mandated migration.
- A large number will get their video from online sources, though it will be painful because broadband is slow in the US and has been getting more congested (at least here in San Francisco – I can barely play video without stuttering even when on my 1.5mbit cable connection);
- Over time the “online” users will download more and more shows to devices like iPods which, of course, is totally time-shifted;
- The “rental” model of viewing downloaded video will have to change because the current rental time-period is too short – longer-term rental will have to be made available (perhaps lasting for years);
I’ve always suspected that TiVo was tracking my viewing of time-shifted shows, including looking at whether I skipped the commercials, which I always do. Clearly they do, and I’ll investigate that more. Perhaps you already know more about that and would share your knowledge?