In this week’s issue… It’s NAB Show time – FCC pulls Mass. license – Mars Hill grows into Albany – Carton sentenced – Canadian AM downgrades
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*LAS VEGAS – We’re once more unto the desert, our 19th year chronicling the NAB Show and all of its ancillary events for NERW readers and our Fybush Media clients.
We’ll have a comprehensive report for you in next week’s issue (and in the meantime, watch our own Facebook and Twitter and Wheatstone’s social media all day Monday for our live video reports from the show floor, in partnership with our friends at Wheatstone!)
Even before the big NAB Show opens its floor this morning, though, there’s been plenty going on in conference rooms all around Las Vegas; we’re writing this, in fact, from the annual Nautel Users Group meeting, celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary with tech tips, plus a conversation about the AM all-digital experiment we discussed not long ago on our Top of the Tower podcast. (We’ll be bringing you more conversations from the show this week on the podcast, too…)
So what are the big topics we’ll be hearing more about this week here at NAB?
Broadcast TV’s future: For the TV side of the engineering aisle, the buzzword once again this year is ATSC 3.0. The new digital TV format is on the air with test broadcasts in several markets, such as Phoenix, Dallas and Lansing, Michigan, even though there aren’t yet receivers available to consumers and still won’t be for at least a few more months.
There’s plenty of promise behind ATSC 3.0, and a lot of it should sound familiar to anyone who’s been at these shows in recent years – sharper pictures, better audio, more interactivity, the ability to distribute high-speed data over broadcast facilities, mobile reception… you’ve heard all these promises, right?
Getting there, however, is a challenge: the transition this time will be entirely voluntary, and there’s plenty of skepticism about whether the benefits to broadcasters will be worth the cost. Some big TV groups, most notably Sinclair and Nexstar, have embraced ATSC 3.0, joining forces to create as close to a nationwide platform as they can assemble and hoping to provide data and transmission services to other customers. For the smaller local broadcasters who remain, fewer though those may be, it’s another story; viewers in those markets may be waiting a while for ATSC 3.0 to arrive at their antennas.
And before stations can get to the ATSC 3.0 promised land, there’s still the matter of the ongoing repack of their existing ATSC 1.0 signals. We’re right in the midst of the first few phases of repack, and we expect lots of questions at FCC panels this week about timeframes, reimbursement of expenses, crew availability and all the details that go into relocating hundreds of DTV stations on a tight schedule.
(We spoke with one big vendor last week who said they’ve hired a record number of employees to manufacture antennas, transmission line and tower segments; there’s a good question, too, about what happens to that whole sector of the industry once the repack rush ends and demand for new transmission systems drops off.)
Meanwhile in radio… With changes coming to the NAB Show schedule next year (the floor will open on Sunday and close on Wednesday, a day earlier than the longtime schedule), the radio “neighborhood” will largely move from North to Central Hall next year. This year, though, we have a few trends we’ll be watching in North Hall: an increase in virtualization of studios and tech centers, for instance, with traditional consoles starting to give way to more “glass” controls; still more liquid-cooled transmitters and ever-greater efficiency; ever better HD Radio tools to improve analog-digital sync – and who knows what else we’ll spot for you as we hit the floor this morning?
Meanwhile back home…