Posted on May 1, 2015 in ATSC News
In his opening keynote at the NAB Broadcast Technology Conference on the eve of last month’s NAB Show, ATSC Board Member and National Association of Broadcasters Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny captivated the audience is his visionary look at the technology challenges and opportunities facing broadcasters today.
By SAM MATHENY
Today, I want to talk about constants: the things that, come what may, remain the same. These things are absolutes that every generation must deal with. And while it may sound strange for someone so focused on the future, let me elaborate.
Steven Covey says there are three constants in life: change, choice and principles.
I agree with this and suggest that the constants for broadcasting are no different:
With respect to change, most of the challenges our industry faces are being driven by new technologies and primarily the rise of IP (Internet Protocol) distribution in its many forms. This means the role of the broadcast engineer is more important than ever, and our responsibilities are expanding. It also means we must get comfortable with disruptive ideas and contradictory facts.
Let me give an example: it used to be when a broadcast engineer was asked about “IOT,” he or she would most likely answer with something about the way “Inductive Output Tubes” impact the RF amplification. A discussion of klystrons and efficiency gains would soon ensue.
But today, if asked about IOT that same engineer may just as likely – perhaps even more likely – start talking about the “Internet of Things” and “TV Everywhere” or streaming radio strategy. IP connectivity is expanding and M2M (machine-to-machine) communication is now part of the fabric of our plants. Cisco reports that connected devices outnumber the world’s population by 1.5 to 1, and that is growing. They have even expanded the phrase to IOE, or “Internet of Everything.”
Today’s TV and radio engineers have to understand and manage all of this. You are responsible for all kinds of distribution – from megawatt transmitters with pylong slotter to WiFi systems with distributed mesh arrays. This presents all kinds of challenges, and opportunities. The merger of IT and Engineering functions is something we must all effectively manage.
This is true with distribution inside our plants and outside to our viewers. Our world is more connected than ever and, at the same time, also more un-tethered than ever. People can get access to virtually anything, from virtually anywhere.
This is a long train running and the technology trends will continue to accelerate:
All of this will change our business.
This leads us to choices. What do we do in this rapidly evolving world? Many like to focus on the “FUD.” But fear, uncertainty and doubt are dead-end roads. They don’t get us anywhere, or certainly anywhere productive.
Instead, we need to believe in the virtuous cycle – the idea that adopting new distribution via Web sites, mobile applications and social media all serve to build the overall audience and engagement in our core broadcast service. These feed and support one another.
With our core service, we need to embrace our strengths. Broadcasting is wireless. Broadcasting is local and targeted. Broadcasting delivers nationwide coverage. Broadcast has a unique one-to-many architecture,
And we need to take these strengths and combine them with new technologies like IP distribution, greater connectivity and big data, and leverage the combination to make us even stronger, even more competitive.
I was talking with the CEO of Bittorrent the other day – they know a little bit about IP video distribution – and Eric [Last name] estimated an average household of TV viewing would equal 66 Exabytes of data per month. You may be wondering what the heck is an Exabyte? Well, it is 10 to the 18th power. It goes like this… Mega, Giga, Terra, Peta, Exabyte.
Highscalability.com says it is the equivalent of “all words ever spoken by human beings.” I’m not sure they’ve met my sister, though. But seriously, to support that kind of IP video distribution, Eric thinks you’d need approximately 4.6 million servers that would consume 5500 Megawatts of power. That is about 5-10 nuclear power plants worth – and then our CDN bill would be about five billion dollars… PER MONTH. Numbers like that have my friend John Bishop, the CTO of Akamai, salivating.
But it also makes me positive that there is a very important and sustainable role for broadcasters to play in IP video distribution. It is probably the one thing that I’m most excited about with the next-generation ATSC 3.0 standard — that it will be an IP based transport and will set us up for success in so many ways. From how we integrate with new distribution partners to the types of services enabled by new broadcast receivers.
Our existing cable and satellite partners are adopting IP technology, too, so this is a strategic component that fits with where existing partners are going as well. Going IP is “keeping up with the Joneses,” so to speak, and more.
When I think about what this means for broadcasting, I see a high power, high tower, wireless IP video and data network that reaches virtually 100 percent of U.S. television households and consumers. I see a new extension of the Internet, one that delivers the most popular and valuable content to the masses, more efficiently than any other way – via broadcasting. One that, by design, combines broadcasting with Internet connectivity to provide new viewing experiences that are more immersive, interactive and engaging. I see the opportunity to reach more people in more ways and on more devices with entertainment, news, and vital information. This is good for broadcasters and great for consumers as it will introduce all kinds of new competition to the market.
Change is inevitable. We can choose this future and it will be based on our principles. Broadcaster principles include quality, reliability, community service, competition, independence and democracy.
This is reflected in the words of A.J. Fletcher, the founder of Capitol Broadcasting Company, where I worked for nearly 20 years. “In the integrity and independence of the enlightened individual lies the hope of the nation – to inform the public without bias or favor, is the station’s highest duty.”
It is also reflected in the motto of E.W. Scripps Company: “Give light and the people will find their own way.”
CREATING THE FUTURE
I’d like to add a fourth constant to what Covey said — “There are no facts about the future.” The future is ours to create. Going back to choice – we can choose to sit idle or we can choose to invest, invent, and create the future.
So what is the NAB Labs doing to that end? Let me start with a question I get asked a lot: “What is NAB Labs?”
NAB Labs was started in 2012 and is run by our technology department. It’s part incubator, part test bed, part showcase. And it’s all about innovation. We invest in developing new ideas and technologies that improve free, over-the-air broadcasting and the operating environment of our member companies.
We’re focused on innovation and. to that end, we’ve joined the Center for Innovation Management Studies, or CIMS. We’re working with CIMS on innovation assessments and big data projects. And they’ve aided the NAB technology team as we honed our vision and mission.
We’ve partnered with companies like Sony and Dolby to provide tangible demonstrations of next-gen technologies, like Ultra-High Definition and High Dynamic Range.
We’ve built our own demonstrations, too, and I invite you to see a demo of zoned and interactive multi-screen advertising and advanced emergency alerting in the Futures Park at the 2015 NAB Show.
We’ve performed extensive testing on All AM Digital, and tested other broadcast DTV standards to understand their reception characteristics.
We’re tracking the deployment of FM chips in smart phones, and we funded the development of the API that enables hybrid radio applications to access and utilize those chips. That investment continues today as we work to ensure radio maintains its dominance in connected cars.
We’ve also directly invested in new technologies and start-up companies that we think can help build and benefit our industry, with a couple of examples being NextRadio and Syncbak. You can expect this to continue and perhaps accelerate.
And, we formed the Digital Officer committee at NAB Labs. This group of senior new media executives serves as an advisory board to the NAB Technology Team and me to ensure that the NAB is properly focused on emerging digital and online businesses, issues, policies and technologies. The committee is tackling beacons- and location-based marketing, TV Everywhere and OTT distribution, and programmatic advertising. This committee also played a key role in defining sessions on drones and TV Everywhere for the Digital Strategies Exchange at the show.
Finally, we established a new digital leadership award to recognize those that are providing new-media leadership, similar to how we have been recognizing our best and brightest radio and television engineers for so many decades.
Looking ahead, we’re ready to invest, to test, to push, to foster and to build. And that’s another reason I am glad to be here with you today, because I know you can help inform and guide these decisions.
As I look across the room today…. I know you are innovators. I know you are collaborators. And I know we have the opportunity to create a better world.
We have more technology and tools to work with than ever before. And I know broadcasting has a major role to play. It all starts with collaboration, and if you have ideas, we’d love to hear them.
Posted in ATSC News
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The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting. ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC also develops digital terrestrial broadcasting implementation strategies and supports educational activities on ATSC standards.