Shutting off Analog TV, The transition to Digital – It’s Time

I have a vested interested in seeing HDTV take off.Every new HDTV set sold is another reason for someone to
subscribe to HDNet and HDNet Movies.But sales of HDTVs don’t really need much
help. They are flying off the shelves. The CEA says that digital TVs account for
more than 25 pct of TVs sold this year and that percentage is
growing.
Some are even predicting that digital will outsell analog in 2005
!As prices decline further and
further, analog TVs will continue to disappear from retail shelves and HDTV sales will continue to boom. So on
this end I’m covered.

I also have a vested interested in seeing the adoption of HDTV not happening too quickly. The fact that it has
taken all these years to get this far is a beautiful thing. The conventional wisdom among cable networks is that the
market of HDTV consumers is still too small for them to cost justify investing in new content, equipment and
distribution, which for the biggest network conglomerates will reach hundreds of millions of dollars in conversion
costs, incremental equipment and distribution costs. The bigger the perceived cost for them, the slower they
move,the less the competition for HDNet and HDNet Movies.

This headstart has allowed, and will continue to allow us to release groundbreaking programs and events like the
day and date premiere of Enron The Smartest Guys in the Room on HDNet
Movies and in theaters. (we are ramping up to do this quarterly, then monthly!)

To take chances like broadcasting live from the Iraq Elections, The Vatican and The Middle East. To be way
ahead of the curve with our sports, news and entertainment programming. The more
time, the further ahead we will be when the transition finally takes place.

However, I also have a vested interest as an American citizen to see the analog spectrum occupied by regular TV
returned to the government so that it may be resold. Heck, our budge deficit needs every penny it can get, and
billions from an analog spectrum sale can’t hurt.

The spectrum can also be used for far better applications than regular analog TV. From military to high speed data
applications, it won’t take much to accomplish more. Plus, its not like free over the air TV is going away, it’s just
being replaced by over the air free digital TV signals.

The argument against replaceing the over the air analog TV signal with an over the air, free digital signal,
to return the spectrum has been two fold.

First, there are 10s of millions of TV sets that still get TV from over the air analog signals. Most are 2nd, 3rd,
4th sets in homes. In some places however, like here in Dallas, the percentage of homes that receive their primary TV
signal over the air in analog, can be as high as 40 pct. The question is, how are these people made happy when their
over the air analog signal is turned off and they are forced to get some form of equipment that enables their TVs to
receive an over the air digital signal. After all, in the USA, TV is as much a right as the First Amendment.

Which leads to the 2nd argument against.

Politicians want to be re-elected. If mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa can’t get their TV, or are confused
about how the whole thing will work, then they will be up in arms and we will see more political activism against
candidates than we have seen since the 1960s…

So of course politicians are afraid of the entire issue with just a few exceptions.
Rep Barton of Texas has attempted to take
the lead
on forcing this issue forward. Rep Barton wants to set a date of Dec 31st 2006 as the cutoff date.
And he is right. That should be the date.

That cut off date provides plenty of time for everything that is going to happen to enable the transition to
happen. From reading and hearing all the debate, and I won’t rehash all the issues here, I think there are several
points that will ease the transition that have not been discussed.

Here they are:

1. The minute a date is set, everyone and anyone who can make money selling their product and service to the
estimated 20 pct of the American population who gets their analog TV over the air is going to start selling like it
was their last chance.

a. There will be a price war between cable, satellite and telco video providers to reach those 20mm
homes
. I would expect that we will see deals like “$1 to get your entire home ready for the digital
conversion”. Instead of a free DVR, they will bundle in STBs for everyhome in the house.No video provider
wants to lose out on the chance to convert those 20mm to customers.

b. The explosion in subs for all the video providers will also provide for an explosion in stock prices for all
of them. Sure their customer acquisition costs will go up, but they will also see an explosion in digital subs. The
stock market will ignore the costs as 1 time and extrapolate the digital opportunities per new sub andstock
prices will rocket up.

c. There will also be a price war among TV manufacturers. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for them
to blow product out the door. They won’t miss out on the chance. Like the video providers, they will advertise
unbelieveable pricing specials and instead of offering promotion dollars for things like sound systems and
recliners that we often see at retail, we can expect to see trade in programs for analog sets and even bundling of
analog to digital convertors.

If there is a risk to the 12/31/06 date, its that manufacturers can’t ramp up fast enough to handle the demand
and to gain volume efficiencies on sets. If they do have enough time, look for this to be the push that sends
Plasma and LCD sets far below 1k dollars for a 42″HDTV set.

d. From a government perspective, there won’t be near the need for subsidies that most fear. The subsidies will
come from the video and TV providers in the form of customer acquisition investments in set top boxes and
promotional bundles of analog to digitial convertors.

e. The biggest winner in the transition will be anyone who sells advertising. The amount of money spent by
interested parties to educate, confuse, market, brand and gain customers could dwarf what is spent on a
Presidential election because the stakes are higher. There arent many situations where 20mm new customers are
pushed to buy something by a deadline.

If the big media companies want to see their stocks go up in 2006, seeing that this bill passes is the one way
to do it.

2. Finally, the last big gain from the analog to digital transition will be the bandwidth freed up on
cable networks. Once MSOs don’t have to providebandwidth for analog cable tv networks at 38mbs each, that
bandwidth can be freed up and used for other services, from HDTV to VOD to High Speed data. It could be the impetus
for download speeds to finally get far higher than where they are now.

It’s time for the analog to digital transition. Let’s support Rep Barton in his plans. We all stand to
gain.

67 thoughts on “Shutting off Analog TV, The transition to Digital – It’s Time

  1. The most important statistic in assessing the value of a service is its usage by its target population. In the case of TV broadcasting that is of course the TV homes that rely solely on the service, i.e. OTA-only TV homes. Since the launch of the broadcasters\’ $12bn+ DTV service back in Nov. 1998, the percentage of OTA-only homes has fallen from 30% then to 12% today. With the end of analog TV broadcasting in sight (February 17, 2009), the percentage of OTA-only homes could drop to 5% or less by 2010 triggering perhaps the end of our only free TV service. Certainly those that need spectrum for other services and are prepared to pay for it would welcome such an event. The failure of the broadcast TV service conversion to digital can be largely attributed to the total lack of support from the nation\’s TV dealers who do not promote nor demonstrate the service. Best Buy and Circuit City restrict their DTV displays/promotions to one of the two direct-to-home satellite DTV services or the local cable DTV service, though both will sell federally subsidized digital-to-analog converter boxes. Curiously, neither Congress nor the FCC, nor indeed the broadcasters, have expressed any concern about the lack of TV dealer interest in the OTA DTV service. Add to that the fact that the FCC, with no apparent objections from the TV industry, discontinued reporting on the declining percentage of TV homes that rely solely on the OTA service. Maybe the FCC is already convinced that OTA broadcasting is \”irrelevant.\” Now along comes Internet TV to deliver the coup de grace as it surely will if the transition to digital continues on its current path. Internet TV, if packaged properly by the broadcasters, has the potential to give our only free TV service a new lease on life rather than making it irrelevant as predicted by Mr. Gates.

    Comment by Adrian -

  2. It would be nice to see a consumer uprising over having to purchase cable or satilite TV packages. Nobody I know watches all of the stuff they end up paying for. If Analog is on it\’s way out, then I guess that is just part of the constant evolution of things. But don\’t make us purchase channels that will never get watched. Let the consumer choose the channels they want, to create their own customized package. This is why I\’ve never bought into digital and remain with Analog. At least I\’m not wasting my hard earned money on mostly useless package \”deals\”.

    This seems to me to be like what the Phone Companies do now. They create problems so that you are required to pay them, again, for the solution. Like text messaging, if you don\’t want your teen to text message your money away, you can pay them to block it. They make money on both ends, and there is always a catch somewhere.

    Comment by Daniel -

  3. Hdtv is new revolution in telivision watching but as time flie by it would become much cheaper and better in quality

    Comment by rand -

  4. I am wondering why I don’t see any HD TV tuner set top boxes on the shelves anymore. My set is rear-projection dlp, and I get a terrific picture with my cable, digital service, and HD set top box provided by the cable company. I am 63 and I am thrilled that i can watch without my glasses when I am lying down, a plus for those of us with bifocals. I want to be able to get my signal over air with an antenna and hd tuner box, but I can’t find one now. The one I found on the net is $300 plus. My set is an HD monitor, does not contain an HD tuner. My next course of action (by way of educating myself) will be to remove the set top box and find out what I get without it. BTW, even analog channels look better on this TV. I have enjoyed reading this discussion, do think the personal attacks are counter-productive.

    Comment by Helen M. Lowe -

  5. good!

    Comment by 11nong -

  6. Personally, I think that a making technological shift is more than necessary. I do agree that the times have been so demanding that the things of the past are more than obsolete. Televisions have improved and are being fully enjoyed by a lot of people. To further boost home viewing, it is suggested to use a digital television. Nowadays, even television shows require the best technology to be appreciated. Thus, this transition definitely makes a lot of sense.

    Comment by Ethan Urber -

  7. Hi All,
    Forgive my ignorance, I just found out about this issue from Sunday Parade magazine 10/23/05. My question is: I have 2 TV’s, the newest is 10 years old and I subscribe to cable but I don’t subscribe to the “premium” channels. Therefore, I don’t have an extra cable converter box. So, will I have to upgrade sometime in the future or will the cable signal be enough?

    Thanks In Advance, Susan

    Comment by Susan -

  8. Here are some points:
    1) Website predicting available channels in our area (off air) indicate zero HDTV sigs in future. We have 8 analog stations now.
    2) My understanding is there is a choice of seeing 1 HDTV sig or 4 lower def signals.
    Guess what will broadcast most of time– the four signals because of more ad time available. So HD will be only sometime.
    Hardly worth the cost.
    3) The aspect ratio stinks. I feel like I’m viewing through a slit. I can’t process the side field of view either.
    I guess the ultra conservatives will be happy since all bossum area of females will now be cut off.
    4) How is high def going to help us with failing vision? Look at the demographics, we are an aging population. Elders will see little improvement.
    5) Set sizes are behemoths horizontally.
    My furniture can’t accommodate.

    I think HDTV was ill conceived from a consumer standpoint. I really hope it fails.

    Comment by Brian Alsop -

  9. 1. Chalk this issue up to another government supported entity,(by overpaid politicians no less, try living on a teachers salary you idiots);ie. sometimes progress sends you backward not forward.
    2. I, like other low income individuals, can’t always afford to absorb the cost increase for new technology.
    3. Don’t tell me what to do. meaning; what happened to government by the people FOR the people. It seems that so many needless laws are being passed every hour that WE the people don’t realize we broke a rule until the cuffs are on our wrists and the judge is banging the gavel{PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE, IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE}. One voice is a fanatic/dissident, four voices are a barbershop quartet, millions of voices are a nation fed up with beaurocracy. Remember it all boills down to one thing; CASH!
    4. DO WE REALLY NEED A PICTURE THAT CLEAR? REAL LIFE AIN’T THAT PRECISE WHY SHOULD TV BE THAT WAY. LET’S NOT LOSE OUR HEADS TRYIN’ TO KEEP UP WITH THE JONES’S!
    peace out! JD

    Comment by John Doe -

  10. Personally, I’m very anxious for the digital TV future! Breakthroughs times fueled by disruptive technologies are *the* SPICE of life.🙂

    Comment by Daniel Farfan -

  11. After reading the article itself, as well as, all the comments and personal attacks from everyone, I would like to just pose two simple questions………

    What and who can justify a specifice date keeping in mind just how many people receive analog and cannot or will not change to digital for whatever reasons?

    I fully understand that the Federal Communications Commission has the right to control such issues, but with all of advanced technological changes that have occurred and keeping in accordance with the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, how can this actually occur without hurting those that the Telecommunications Act covers?

    Comment by angella -

  12. Wow…Some of your comments show your age bracket and level of life. Let me break it down for you “poor”, “middle class”, people…Okay? This coming from a 23 year old who did not make money on the dot com, rather made his money on energy (nuclear at that).

    1. I own a 57 inch wide screen HDTV. The picture quality compared to say a 57 inch analog TV is like (for you poor people) going from McDonalds to eating with Donald Trump. The picture is so much better, you can see the acne on a QB’s face for Notre Dame (or place school here). You can count the blades of grass almost 30 feet away from the TV (I might be able to say farther if I had a bigger room, thats judging from the bathroom if your wondering kids).

    2.If your neighbor who claims to own a HDTV is moaning about the picture quality, here’s why: 1.They accidently got a DTV (not the same as HDTV). 2.The cable provider has provided bad/old RG lines (cable lines for you old folks) that go into the house/neighborhood/box. This can affect the picture quality. 3.They do not understand that a HDTV will not improve the picture quality on a analog channel. 4.They do not have their HDTV setop box properly setup (the cable company installers fail to properly set them up because like many of you fail to understand how and what). For example, of my HDTV Digital Video Recorder setup, the installer didn’t understand that you had to go into the menu and change settings, I had to do it for him. Otherwise I’d be looking at 4:3 aspect ratio and 480p on my TV instead of 16:9/1080i.

    3.People are always crying for something they are uneducated on. Best example of this is global warming. If you look at the actual history of recorded data in the world, you would know that we did have a increase in global temp every year for a long period of time, you would also know that for quite sometime that global temps have been failling. But your too busy reading YAHOO news or listening to MSNBC and not actually reading hard data to understand that 9 times out of 10. What’s the point I’m trying to make here: if your not poor don’t cry for the poor…If you don’t own a HDTV and don’t understand every little detail about it, don’t try to fool those who do or say they have no idea what they are talking about because they are “rich”. You can be wrong, and many times in life you will be wrong, just accept it (it is apart of life).

    4.This so called “deadline” the federal government has listed for the push over to digital, has been pushed back for many years. Now you bleeding hearts who are crying for the poor…Should remember for a minute that former President, Bill Clinton in the year 2000 during his speech at the Democrat National Convention was shown walking down a hallway to the stage in a strange looking picture (made his head shape look like a leamon) that’s because it was in HD. I know what your saying, “That’s a lie”, or my personal favorite, “What? It looked terrible”. It was indeed, look it up because the press explained this to you the next morning. Now I’m going to explain why it didn’t look good on your TV, you did not have a HDTV nor did you have a widescreen TV, nor did you have the broadcast in a truely digital format (it was analog). Why did they do it? So the press could talk about it, explain it, thus forcing you the viewer to connect the dots and give credit to the former President for the technology gift of HDTV coming soon (sort of life how Al Gore tried to gain credit for the internet).

    5.Back to that neighbor or co worker who has HD but is not impressed. Chances are they don’t understand that on a CRT (what most analog TV owners have) will never see the benefits of HDTV (even if it’s a widescreen). Why? Because it is really only impressive on other formats (honest). And really only extremely impressive on a big screen (51 inches and above). Especially on a rear projection TV (because we all hated the pictures we saw on analog rear projection, it looked dim and dark, go to your local Hooters if your wondering what it looked like, chances are they still got a old analog there still, but ask). Plus, sometimes certain things need to be done to these bigger TVs (even brand new, 14 secs ago delivered) such as a calibration that can be done by a menu or a button push. Does this mean the neighbor you know has HDTV and is disapointed by it’s picture is not smart? No. Does it mean that even though he has a degree in engineering that he should know? No. Why? Because this is all new stuff and sometimes extensive homework and training is needed for people who are not certain technology friendly (maybe great with VCR’s and computers, but crud when it comes to the HDTV).

    6.If your worried about the “poor” and the “middle class”, being able to afford this…Mark Cuban is right, prices are indeed falling and will continue to fall. Infact, even those “sexy” and “cool” thin panel LCDs have companies right now working on a TV that will cost you a hundred bucks (think I’m lying, go do your homework and then talk). Guess what else? Take that HDTV box from your cable company, get some HDTV channels, hook it up to your analog TV. Guess what happens? You get a picture. Is it a better picture? Can ya tell a difference? No. It looks the same as a digital channel you’ve seen on Dish Network, DirecTV, and so on. How do I know? I’ve done it.

    7.Instead of insulting Mark Cuban, maybe you should try to make it in this world yourself. Spewing your jealousy out (and you are) by writing on his dot com capitialization shows your jealous. You may not think you are, but the end you are very much with comments like those. Grow up, get your head straight and start throwing your money in the market since your so smart…Since Mark Cuban and I, are so dumb in your eyes, and we don’t understand the “poor” and “middle class”. We understand them quite well, it’s you who want to make yourselves sit on a high horse and have people listen to you when you obviously don’t understand economics (supply and demand) and technology.

    In the end, Mr.Cuban, I love HDNet (keep those reruns of Andy Richter coming, that show was a classic regardless of ratings). Thanks for answering and responding to my email on movie suggestions for HDNet Movies (I saw you added one of the movies I requested fairly quickly afterwards). Goodluck with all your future endevors. I apologize if the views/comments I’ve expressed have embarrased you, but someone needed to say the truth.

    For the rest of ya, wake up! Stop listening to Michael Moore and retards who don’t do their home work…Go do your own home work and come up with your own views…You’ll be far richer and far smarter than the rest. That’s when ya can get on the high horse and laugh at the sheep.

    Comment by Patrick -

  13. You seem to know a lot about digital tv. would you be as so kind as to post some comments on my blog site that I’m constructing as a media assignment.
    rgds
    G

    Comment by Grace -

  14. Dang it, posted new comments before reading…

    Nah, difster’s too messed up to be me. (I know him from a different site too, if I’m correct)

    So sorry to upset you by clinging to actual principles and rules.

    The NBA’s refs are screwed up, but even they pay lip service to the rules they purport to enforce. Our federal government doesn’t even pretend to bother to do so.

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  15. This confirming on email thing’s screwing me all up. Sorry!

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  16. Dang it, posted new comments before reading…

    Nah, difster’s too messed up to be me. (I know him from a different site too, if I’m correct)

    So sorry to upset you by clinging to actual principles and rules.

    The NBA’s refs are screwed up, but even they pay lip service to the rules they purport to enforce. Our federal government doesn’t even pretend to bother to do so.

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  17. I’ve been a fan of the Mavs since birth and yourself since you came along. I have some comments on the TV tech.

    I use the rabbit ears to get TV; there’s no way in hell I can afford to pay the bills just to get basic cable in Dallas. Much to my chagrin, I can’t watch the Mavs/Suns series away games without cable (it’s on TNT). I’ve was rather frustrated when the games only came on FSN SW, but that was regular season and I dealt with it. I made it out to two home games and watched most of the rest on UPN. I even have $1 per game riding on the Suns series with a bud from Phoenix, but guess what? I can’t watch the game unless I go to Hooters!

    I’d venture to say that there are tons of Dallasites devoted to the Mavs that are in the same predicament. I’m gonna be the joker listening to the game from my car radio tonite. While you may not have much to do with this, let’s lay off the HD stuff–what about the common man? There’s a larger audience to tap.

    Kind regards,

    Comment by Preston -

  18. Posted May 10, 2005, 4:25 PM ET by Michael Maier
    So you’re asserting that the benefits to society at large are so blatantly obvious that no private company will spend their money to serve customers by providing that benefit?

    This is typical ivory tower thinking. Is it so hard to understand that moving to digital from analog doesn’t benefit the broadcasting stations but is beneficial to the public at large? You don’t make more money sending the same broadcasts you did before the conversion to digital. But that analog bandwidth can be freed up for other uses.

    BTW my bet is Michael Maier = Difster

    Gimme a break. I’m done with you both. Anyone who takes Difster’s arguments and personal attacks seriously doesn’t merit much respect.

    Maybe you guys should move to the middle of Idaho somewhere and live in a shack. Then the big bad govt. won’t bother you with crazy ideas like digital television.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  19. Typical Berkeley haters. You’ve never been there and probably aren’t friends with anyone who has studied there. It’s a great program. I’m not saying you can’t get educated for free but Von Mises.org is not exactly a well rounded education.

    Preaching to the choir isn’t educating.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  20. Also, let me get this straight: You’re all for forcing the customers to buy things they don’t want now? So you, Mark and the FCC know what the customer needs even though they aren’t willing to buy it?

    Yeah, not too condescending there, are we?

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  21. This is just one more instance of the government being bought off by vested interests. And no one knows about it. Nor will they until they have to buy new equipment.

    Then you’ll see how appreciative of the government efforts the lowly commoners of this country (without the great benefit of a UC-Berkeley education) really are.

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  22. Posted May 2, 2005, 11:18 PM ET by jsho12
    “Economics is what I’m talking about Difster. No private media company has any vested interest in moving from analog to digital since it only costs money and reaps no positive benefits. This is one situation where govt. intervention is necessary.”

    So you’re asserting that the benefits to society at large are so blatantly obvious that no private company will spend their money to serve customers by providing that benefit?

    Yeah, that’s a seriously compelling reason for government intervention. A bit warped, if you ask me.

    Difster: Your comments on the Berkeley education are far too appropriate.

    jsho12: Seriously, dude. You could have gotten a better (and free!!) economics education at Von Mises.org.

    So the world would have been better off if the UN had decided the great Beta vs. VHS question of the 1980’s? Please.

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  23. Posted Apr 27, 2005, 5:36 PM ET by jsho12
    “We are talking about television broadcasts here. Comparing a change in standards to tyranny strikes me as overkill. This does not restrict the rights of people to receive media reports it simply changes it to a format that makes more sense in the long run. ….

    People…this is not a big deal. It’s no different than the govt. paving roads for automobiles. People with horse and carriages could complain that asphalt is too hot for the horses feet to handle and interferes with their ability to travel by horse freely. All true but irrelevant.

    Get over it guys.”

    It’s folks like you that think campaign finance “reform” is a good idea. Something sounds good, but the ultimate ramifications of allowing it to happen are ignored. Telling me to get over it when our government is committing illegal acts is beyond stupid. You obviously have no interest in our government acting under legal bounds. Go move to Europe. You’ll be happier under cradle to grave government there. Just don’t get too sick. They’ll turn you off like a light switch.

    Comment by Michael Maier -

  24. I have been waiting for HDTV to take off for a long time, it’s very pleasing to see the technolgy finally becoming more mainstream, even though it’s only the beginning.

    Comment by Hans Hansen -

  25. No thanks, I’ll stick with analog for as long as I can. Digital TV is just a money making scheme. I won’t buy an HD TV, digital box and new cables until I absolutely have to.

    Sometimes you just have to say, “Screw you” to corporate America.

    Sue
    http://www.pdmos.tk

    Comment by Sue -

  26. Difster,

    That is funny. Where did you learn to present an argument? Kindergarten? Personal attacks don’t equate to knowledge or intelligence.

    I’m done with you.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  27. A degree in economics from Berkely eh? That explains a lot. Keep trying, maybe you’ll get it right next time. I think you’re the one that drank the kool-aid kiddo.

    Comment by Difster -

  28. Economics is what I’m talking about Difster. No private media company has any vested interest in moving from analog to digital since it only costs money and reaps no positive benefits. This is one situation where govt. intervention is necessary.

    Clearly you are either an academic or fancy yourself an academic. What I’m talking about is applying economic/political principles to reality which you are missing. It is nice in theory to say that markets always find the best solution but that is simply not true. The analog vs. digital debate is one of those situation where the private sector lags behind what the govt. would do.

    BTW I have an undergraduate degree in Economics from UC Berkeley. If you’re a grad student I may concede you have more academic experience but having worked in the private sector for over 6 years I think I’m entitled to my opinion without some guy (likely a kid) questioning my education.

    Now if you can explain to me the economic benefits the tv stations will reap by switching from analog to digital signals then you have a point about the market eventually driving everything to digital. Otherwise, stop blindly worshipping at the shrine of free markets, put down the Kool Aid, and join the real world.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  29. jsho12 said: “Market forces will not work on the move to digital because the media companies who currently occupy the analog space will not make any more money by moving to digital”

    You obviously have no grasp of basic economics.

    If the current media companies aren’t willing to move with the market, they will be replaced by companies that will. It’s really as simple as that.

    The next thing you’re going to tell me is that newspaper, magazine and book publishers should be FORCED to use only electronic distribution in order to save trees. I know you’re scoffing but it’s a logical extension of your argument.

    Go spend some time educating yourself on economics and get back to me in a couple of years. I can no longer tolerate your ignorance.

    Comment by Difster -

  30. Difster,

    You do understand that my comments about over the air broadcasts (read: free) and the possible decline in ad revenues due to DVRs and bittorrent apply both to digital and analog broadcasts right? Even if we move to all digital those broadcasts (in my opinion) will still be obsolete in 20 years. So feeling that over the air broadcasting is a dinosaur is in no way relevant to whether the govt. should require stations to go digital. They are two separate topics. So there is no contradiction. Though I perhaps should have left that last part out in case less adept readers get confused.

    As for the article you posted – I did read it and found it poorly thought out. Of course people are free to disagree but I simply thought the article was wrong in it’s arguments. You act as though anyone reading that article must come around to your way of thinking. Not true.

    Let me explain this again. Market forces will not work on the move to digital because the media companies who currently occupy the analog space will not make any more money by moving to digital. In fact they will lose money because it costs money to convert. Simple to understand right? This is different than media companies deciding to eliminate free broadcasts because no one watches commercials. THAT has nothing to do with digital vs. analog but rather On Demand vs. traditional media.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  31. jsho12,

    You are so wrong on so many levels it’s not even funny. Well, it’s at least amusing.

    You accuse me of not knowing what I’m rebelling against which is just lame. I have stated explicitly that the government has no business even being involved in regulating the airwaves. Private property laws are perfectly adaptable to broadcast signals. Did you read the article I linked to? If not, you’ll find it on my blog under the post, “The Case Against Public Airwaves.” Read the article and drop me an email, then we’ll have a discussion if you don’t run away like a sissy.

    You also contradicted yourself in your last post.

    First you said: “There is a greater public interest in moving towards digital but the private sector would never do this on their own because the cost/benefit simply isn’t there.”

    Then you said: “Products like Tivo (or other dvrs) or On Demand services will continue to cut into their advertising revenue which will decrease their ability to develop additional content which will drive advertising down further etc.”

    If that second paragraph isn’t market forces at work, I don’t know what is. So which is it?

    If broadcast television is the dinasaur you claim it is, then the market will make it extinct. The government has no business demanding that we stop using it.

    Furthermore, your claims about it being necessary to make more money for the government are just plain stupid. Reading the article I mentioned will make that clear.

    Comment by Difster -

  32. Difster,

    Questioning the motivations for my opinion on Analog signals is not going to change the fact that this is much ado about nothing. Your arguments bear the stink of someone who is rebelling against something without knowing why.

    We have democratically elected congressmen and congresswomen deciding that the analog spectrum needs to be opened up to things beyond television broadcasts. Their decision can be reasonably justified. 1) Selling the bandwidth generates money 2) Most people have cable television so it will not affect as many people as it would have 30 years ago 3) People watching over the air channels (major networks for the most part) have been declining sharply as the hundreds of cable channels available segment the television viewing market so again eliminating analog signals does not affect as many people. 4) The bandwidth can be used for emergency uses. 5) These broadcasts we have been accustomed to getting can still be received by purchasing a converter or new television.

    Issues like this are exactly what government should involve themselves in. There is a greater public interest in moving towards digital but the private sector would never do this on their own because the cost/benefit simply isn’t there.

    As it is over the air television is a dinosaur anyways. Products like Tivo (or other dvrs) or On Demand services will continue to cut into their advertising revenue which will decrease their ability to develop additional content which will drive advertising down further etc. Even if I don’t have Tivo I can use a bittorrent and download most of the popular programs within hours of them airing and watch them at my convenience while skipping commercials.

    It will be interesting to see what television is like 20 years from now. I seriously doubt that anything but sporting events will be able to get viewers to sit through traditional commercials in 20 years.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  33. Great article – I’m based in the UK and we’re only just beginning to have this debate. I like your perspective on it

    Comment by Whiplash Injury -

  34. This also gets more interesting as phon companies are working legislation through that will allow them to broadcast video. As we speak, Verizon is in my neighborhood laying fiber optic cable that will allow higher internet speeds and eventually cable. The Texas House just approved legislation that will allow phone companies to broadcast video. The walls are coming down and, ultimately, it will better for the consumer.

    Let me restate my comment above to clarify… Analog signals use bandwidthm which, as Mark says, can be used for other purposes. Digital signals will be provided through a conduit adn therefore not use up bandwidth. I am all for it. Especially if you one that thinks that all of the radio waves and signals and electro magnetic fields generated by all of the electronic devices is detrimental to our health…why not contain it a wire?

    Comment by Stacey -

  35. There is obviuously a big misconception here. Digital signal does not mean HDTV. They are not forcing everyone to go and buy an HDTV set.

    And how is this tearing any freedom away??? Analog signals and digital signals both take up airwaves and use up frequency and bandwidth. Bandwidth is limited, therefore we cannot allow unfettered use of it. Keeping analog and digital signals would use double the frequencies and would limit other use. I think a brief article about the difference between analog and digital signals and then HDTV would clear some things up. I’ll see if I can find one, otherwise, maybe Mark could clear things up better than I.

    Comment by Stacey -

  36. I truly hope you own a horse difster.

    Comment by Brian Barnaud -

  37. Mr. Cuban, I look forward to the widespread usage of HD tv. However, I do not rush to get it for my home for one major reason: I need Closed Captioning to watch TV! And at this point, a small percentage of shows on HD have closed captioning and while I’ve heard that there is a government mandate for ClosedCaptioning for all shows by a certain date, I’d just prefer to wait until then. If you want to speed that up, please do so!

    Signed, a concerned citizen who uses closed captions.

    Comment by Ben -

  38. jsho12, you are compltely missing the point. The government has no business setting these standards in the first place.

    If you don’t think that one bad law doesn’t beget another, you need to pay a little more attention to history.

    This could kill broadcast television because many people are simply going to forego the purchase of an adapter.

    Your road paving analogy is deeply flawed. People that still rode horses weren’t forced to go buy automobiles in order to use the new roads whereas television users will have to either spend their money on a compatibility box or shun broadcast television.

    It sounds to me like you have a vested interest in this switchover.

    Personally, I don’t even own a TV so it’s not of much concequence to me but this is just one more layer of our freedom being peeled away.

    Comment by Difster -

  39. Difster said: To MANDATE that a given technology (especially one so ubiquitous as televison) be phased out for anything other than a critical safety issue (think absestos) is nothing short of tyranny. If the government can get away with something this stupid, they can get away with anything.

    ——-

    We are talking about television broadcasts here. Comparing a change in standards to tyranny strikes me as overkill. This does not restrict the rights of people to receive media reports it simply changes it to a format that makes more sense in the long run.

    This not killing broadcast television…you can still receive free over the air broadcasts as long as your tv can handle the signal.

    People…this is not a big deal. It’s no different than the govt. paving roads for automobiles. People with horse and carriages could complain that asphalt is too hot for the horses feet to handle and interferes with their ability to travel by horse freely. All true but irrelevant.

    Get over it guys.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  40. jsho12 said: Come one people it’s obvious analog television signals are becoming a thing of the past. That bandwidth can be used for so many better purposes it is a no brainer to phase that out.
    **************************

    You’re absolutely right but it’s not the job of the stupid government to determine that for us. If the market determines that analog is no longer a viable technology (thing 8-track tapes) then so be it, let it die.

    To MANDATE that a given technology (especially one so ubiquitous as televison) be phased out for anything other than a critical safety issue (think absestos) is nothing short of tyranny. If the government can get away with something this stupid, they can get away with anything.

    If the government is so worried about having extra frequencies for emergency services (a red herring at best) why don’t they convert their communications to digital instead of forcing us to do the same.

    Epiphany: I just realized that this will simply kill broadcast television and maybe that’s the true intent.

    Comment by Difster -

  41. What the hell did i miss when i read the constitution last?! Where was the part about the government owning the airwaves. I musta missed that part. Anyway, from what i have seen, we as a society should understand the HD movement, politicians don’t understand much and the technology doesn’t seem ready for me yet. I am a big techno-proponent, but sometimes things take a little more time to get it right. I don’t run out and install windows patches until i have seen at least a dozen remarks telling me the patch fixes more than it breaks. Same concept i think!

    Comment by Rob Thrasher -

  42. Come one people it’s obvious analog television signals are becoming a thing of the past. That bandwidth can be used for so many better purposes it is a no brainer to phase that out.

    I am sorry if it costs people money to switch but they are certainly free to not watch television. Embrace the future don’t cling to the past.

    If we based all our decisions on how it would affect poor people we would simply pull the rest of us down into the gutter with them. I know it’s harsh but it’s true.

    But on a positive note isn’t America a great country that out low income folks are complaining about the move to digital television? If you were in southeast Asia you’d be complaining about lack or food or electricity rather than lack of free analog tv. Count your blessings people you are no better than the poor people in SE Asia you just lucky at birth.

    Comment by jsho12 -

  43. I don’t want the government telling me that I need to buy a HDTV set. First of all, I can’t afford it. Not all of us got lucky in the dot com boom. Just because you reaped the benefits of the most lopsided business transaction in history doesn’t mean everyone should run out and spend money on a HDTV set.

    Comment by inside sports -

  44. The Enron movie was great! I saw it on HDnet. Thanks Mark.

    Comment by hdtv -

  45. FedGov has absolutely NO BUSINESS regulating airwaves in the first place.

    Even if you could make an argument that the government should be involved (which you can’t), they certainly shouldn’t be telling us what type of TV we have to watch. That’s just stupid.

    Here is a great article with a rock solid answer to public ownship of the airwaves:
    http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?Id=1662

    Comment by Difster -

  46. I am an analog TV user with cable. I’m not overly opposed to killing analog if digital is available at a reasonable price, with the same quality. I’m not talking about a new TV vs. an old, I’m talking about the conversion box so the old analog TV still works.

    There are a lot of people that are using an antenna either exclusively or just for their local stations, so they don’t have to pay extra with satellite (they can also get stations not carried by cable or satellite, by area).

    Rarely do I use the airwaves for TV, but I know a lot of people that do. I remember the first cheap cell phones that were all digital. Either they had a signal or they didn’t. Analog phones worked better. Can’t get an analog phone anymore, that I know of (I could be very wrong) but I still get ‘digitzed’ phone calls when I have bad reception. The other person sounds ‘digitized’.

    I would like to see digital conversion boxes on the market now, so people could try them and see how well they work. Some consumer reviews would either qualify them or make them be better, people won’t buy them till they do the job.

    As for people buying an HDTV now vs. analog. If you have HD available and want it, you’ll buy it. But when you can buy a large analog TV for far less, when you aren’t going to get HD, why buy the HDTV?

    Switching to digital shouldn’t be definite until we are assured we can still get the same quality as before, just with an antenna.

    Comment by Kyle -

  47. Mark —

    NOT Gonna Happen! The turnoff date of 12.31.06 is only 20 months away.

    Way too many folks will scream when they *must* upgrade to digital. It’s not because they cannot afford to upgrade. I know plenty of low income folks.

    Money is not the issue. Over the last 20 years, the lower class folks have not done without their VCR, DVD, PVR, big screen, cable tv, Nintendo, PS2, XBox, etc. Their movie libraries far exceed mine. So having the available discretionary income is not the problem.

    The issue is that people do not like being *forced* to upgrade/spend money.

    So who will subsidize the converter boxes? Until this is sorted out, there will be delayed implementation. IMHO.

    Comment by Kelly -

  48. you’re kidding right?

    Jeebus H. Crisco, it must be nice living in your giant house iwth a huge bank account.

    Ever think about the poor that can’t afford an HDTV even with its prices comign down? What about the poor who can’t afford to invest in a new TV and havce to stuck with the old analog one?

    Then go and sell the analog band, leaving them to get what little news and programming they can pick up to come from private entities with a vested interest in their own status quo. Even littler information freedom for the poor than what they already are stuck with.

    And Barton? Way to sleep with the devil there. It could only be worse if you said you were behind DeLay on something.

    Maybe its been too long since you’ve had to live paycheck to paycheck but mayeb you should try it again and remember how most of this country lives.

    Comment by Jason (Go Pacers) -

  49. I’m with Patrick. All the talk about business opportunities is all well and good for those who can afford it, but what about those who can’t? What about the widowed grandmother who has no one to go buy her a tv and can’t pop out to best buy and cart it home? Or is this part of the business opportunity? Give some opportunist a chance to fleece a few hundred off granny with that super duper HDTV sale?

    Comment by Bruce -

  50. I follow your arguments, and they are reasonable… for the middle-class and up people who have X hundred dollars spare in their budget to replace their analog TV’s.

    I am concerned about what happens to the people below that line when, practically speaking, their access to the outside world is cut off. Maybe radio will hit big… but it seems cavalier to dismiss them in considering the implications of shutting off analog TV.

    Comment by Patrick Morrison -

  51. Just got digital cable and it’s really great.
    Love the blog,
    Keep up of the good work.

    Comment by Blogger Templates -

  52. Mark, one additional point between d and e is the ability for advertising sponsored viewing. Look at what 800 spawned and what Google is today as a a guide. The fourth and final wave of digitization is upon us: true broadband access in the last mile and switched IP network topologies. Life will never be the same.

    Comment by Michael -

  53. Mark, When is Worldcom, the movie, coming out. Isn’t the Telecom Act spawned travesty even better and bigger spectacle?

    Comment by Michael -

  54. I currently work for an electronics store selling TV’s and I have to say that HDTV’s are selling like crazy but analog TV’s are still selling way more than HD sets. Another problem is that a lot of customers will buy these sets but won’t receive an HD signal because they don’t want to pay extra money to their cable or satellite companies or pay more money for an Integrated HDTV. The most common reason I have noticed why HDTV’s haven’t been as successful as it has in Europe is the way companies are advertising, such as the TV industry and the cable and satellite companies.

    First of all TV companies are pushing customers to expensive plasma and lcd tv’s that most customers can’t afford. That is why I almost always recommend a projection set whether it be a CRT, LCD, or DLP to customers because they don’t know that these sets are also available in HD too. If TV manufactures and retail stores focus more on lower end priced HDTV’s, I believe they will generate more interest in HD.

    Secondly I wish more cable and satellite providers would promote the experience that HD brings to them. Such as 5.1 sound, picture clarity that is 5 times better than what they are seeing.

    Something else that I would also like to see is more HD content. Sure watching HDNet is great (BTW Cox needs to add them) but a lot of customers are not able to view HDNet. Instead we are stuck with DiscoveryHD, which by no means is a bad HD channel, but they have way too many re-runs.

    So to sum it up, I hope the transition to HD happens sooner than later, because more and more customers might be putting off the transition to HD.

    Comment by Joey -

  55. Loved the Enron movie, which I saw on HDNet Movies. Also loved the graphic in the film, which showed Trump being one of the lease innovative companies to work for.

    Comment by Mike -

  56. I would love to be all HDTV… I think a big problem is the way it is sold… all about the flat screen or plasma or whatever. It still makes me shake my head, when people, next door neighbors, get an hd set, use comcast and still shake there head as my 4 year, old 27 inch Wega’s Direct tv picture looks better. I want hdtv, heck, I can throw a rock out my window and hit the back door of 2929 elm, But the sets and the way the signal is delivered is always gonna hurt. I will spend the money on a nice Sony tube hd tv, its cheap, heavy and looks fabuolous, its just not sexy to those folks wanting somthing cool for there money..

    Comment by Brian Barnaud -

  57. Every politician with a “plan” is a dangerous politician. The federal government shouldn’t own the analog or the digital spectrum. It’s relatively easy to argue (see http://www.mises.org for plenty of articles about this) that television and other communications and data transfer would be enormously better and cheaper for all consumers if the government stayed out of it entirely. One easy example – the internet – should ring true to readers of this blog and Mr. Cuban (see == a significant portion of his wealth). The federal government exercised a monopoly control over the internet for something like 20 years. Then when the federal government finally allowed entrepreneurs and capitalists to use the internet, look what happened. Now I can buy toothpaste at drugstore.com for less than I can buy it at my local Kroger. (They’ve got free shipping right now.)

    Mark, I’d sure rather see you support freedom and the free market than government control of airwaves. Whether the federal government maintains the status quo or resells the airwaves to some other service provider, we all lose because whatever is done with it will cost more and be less valuable than if the federal government wasn’t involved.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Garrett -

  58. “Once MSOs don’t have to provide bandwidth for analog cable tv networks at 38mbs each, that bandwidth can be freed up and used for other services, from HDTV to VOD to High Speed data.”

    isn’t that bandwidth located in distribution centers? so really it’s quite negligible when spread between homes.

    Isn’t late 2006 a bit early for a cut-off date? most European countries begin switching off in 2008 and digital adoption has been quicker than in the USA.

    I can see your interest in people switching to digital, but what harm are they doing on analogue? if the technology is so good (and I believe it is) then let them decide to switch themselves

    Comment by Adam -

  59. Does digital television support caption? That’s something else that many of us won’t buy it till we are sure they do support it.

    As far as I know, many models doesnt support caption yet. It sucks.

    gwlj

    Comment by Grant W Laird Jr. -

  60. I’m all for it, but…

    1. Broadcast Flag has to be settled first. People don’t want new technology that takes features away. The unwashed masses may not understand what digital is or why its better, but tell them the new technology means they can’t record a show unless the network lets them, and they will understand that.

    2. When can I get HDNet and HDNet Movies on Comcast digital cable?

    Comment by Andy Alsup -

  61. You have stated in prior articles that you had intended to do a practically simultaneous release of an HDnet film in Landmark theatres, on HDnet, and in DVD format.

    I have been looking forward a great deal to purchasing “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” on DVD. Though I’d like to see it in the theatre, I have two young children, and my wife and I very, very rarely get a chance to see films outside of the home.

    Please inform the public – either here or through enronmovie.com – about expected availability of the DVD. (On a marketing note: though the enronmovie.com site is cute, and the audio files are particularly compelling material to listen to, a real opportunity is being missed by not having an opt-in list for “contact me when this is available on DVD”. You’ll get more eyeballs visiting that site as the movie opens in wide release than you are likely to get in the months after the hype dies down. By not capturing the contact info of those of us who want to buy it asap, you’re greatly increasing the chance we will be buying it from a 3rd party channel like Amazon. When that happens, you’re obviously missing out on major profit margins. You’re a billionaire, so you may not care about such a thing. But you appear to be shrewd and eager about ROI. So in the future, consider the costs of missing out on the direct-to-consumer business here.)

    Comment by Dan Newit -

  62. everybody takes set-top-box with asci tuner to receive OTA digital signal and the box to convert signal to analog for old sets. I have two old computer cards and a new apple gadget to do this. But I fell into them just as the digital transmission towers were commencing broadcast. It was fun. But I have cable with potential of FIOS tv and satellites.

    I assume the marketing idea is to make people run out and buy new sets. Watch out recycling programs and junk piles. It’s the american way.

    The converter boxes should already be on the shelves to make people aware they have that option.

    I have seen none. And google did not have a quick search as I wrote this.

    Comment by rich -

  63. Would love some Rangers on HDNet, I was very unhappy with not being able to see the games this past weekend on YESHD. Call him Mark!

    Comment by Chris -

  64. sounds plausible…

    Comment by Ari -

  65. Rarely do I use the airwaves for TV, but I know a lot of people that do. I remember the first cheap cell phones that were all digital. Either they had a signal or they didn’t. Analog phones worked better. Can’t get an analog phone anymore, that I know of (I could be very wrong) but I still get ‘digitzed’ phone calls when I have bad reception. The other person sounds ‘digitized’.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  66. great site with very good look and perfect information…i like it

    Comment by Litfaßsäule -

  67. Anyway, from what i have seen, we as a society should understand the HD movement, politicians don’t understand much and the technology doesn’t seem ready for me yet. I am a big techno-proponent, but sometimes things take a little more time to get it right. I don’t run out and install windows patches until i have seen at least a dozen remarks telling me the patch fixes more than it breaks. Same concept i think!

    Comment by runescape money -

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