Something very weird just happened in Las Vegas. Since the invention of the Internet, broadcasters have been afraid of what was going to become of them, just as movie theatres were afraid of TV, and newspapers were intimidated by radio. Just as we were calculating the scrap value of our towers, broadcasting figured out how to beat the Internet at its own game.
For some time, broadcasters have been limited by the return channel. In the old days, listeners called in, sent contest entry cards, visited events, and even hung out in front of storefront broadcaster’s windows. Then we gave them URLs to call up and click through. Today, the Internet just kills broadcasting when it comes to interactivity, the ability to target advertising (since that’s more profitable) and finally to provide many more choices as to who or what you can listen to.
NO LONGER ANTI-INTERNET?
What if broadcasting wasn’t the anti-Internet, but an IP-based system with all of its attributes and some really big unique advantages?
|What if NextRadio — shown here on a Samsung Galaxy S7 — is
just the beginning of radio’s expansion?
NextRadio (amongst a number of schemes) combines IP and radio, as does RadioDNS.
During the spring NAB Show, it became clear TV’s ATSC 3.0 accomplishes this goal just beyond the imagination. One thing: It’s not TV anymore. ATSC 3.0 is as much radio as it is anything else given its multimedia nature. I’ve made that case before in this column — that radio and TV are not so different now that the technical limitations are long gone. Cellphones come with cameras and video displays, and radio now serves up art and visual content. When you Skype, you can turn the picture on or off as you wish … your devices don’t discriminate between video and audio only services any longer.
What ATSC 3.0 does is create an IP path not only to mobile devices (something that ATSC 1.0 didn’t do so well) but to home networks as well. The part to remember about ATSC 3.0 is that, ideally, the off-the-air antenna connects to the home gateway router, not the living room TV. Of course, it can still reach a plain old TV (with something like a dongle with an F-connector on one end and a DVI or HDMI connector on the other) but that’s the equivalent of granny’s flipfone in this world.
Broadcasting is now in the IP delivery business, but unlike with the Mobile Network Operators and Internet Service Providers, there is no monthly fee or data cap, no congestion, no walled gardens, no privacy issues, no quality of service tiers, no edge servers or content distribution networks with their streaming fees … and broadcasters control it and compete for your attention.
Qualcomm has put cameras and FM receivers into its mobile phone chip sets for years, probably sticking the MNOs with somethings they did not at first want. The cameras eventually produced revenue as Snapchat introduced a world of video sharing to burn up revenue producing bits, but MNOs make lots of money from users that never hit their data caps.
Broadcasting via the 3GPP network would certainly reduce the unused bits, and there is no guarantee that customers will pay for more. The MNOs would rather they have their own “broadcast” platform, which may look a lot like eMBMS, the LTE version of Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service.
Up until now, the owners of the Internet have operated as a bit of a cartel, controlling what can show up in a home’s or mobile device’s IP stream. One can expect that reluctance to activate the FM chip is a tempest in a teapot compared to what happens when broadcasting leaves its technologically imposed island and becomes IP pipes right into the devices in people’s homes, hands and cars.