Beyond TV: How Next Gen Standards Can Transform the Broadcasting Business

Maximizing the intrinsic value of land—whether for its desirable location or natural resources—is a fundamental principle of real estate development.  The modern day real estate boom, however, is taking place not on the ground but in the air waves.

Terrestrial television broadcasters have occupied various parts of the radio spectrum for some 60-plus years, and as each wireless innovation becomes commercialized, there’s mounting pressure for incumbents to move aside in multibillion-dollar inducing spectrum auctions.

Much of that auctioned spectrum has come from TV parts of the band leaving TV broadcasters with fewer seats at the dinner table. To keep those seats, they must find smarter and more efficient ways to maximize some of the most valuable property in the world.

The good news is that new terrestrial broadcasting standards (i.e., ATSC 3.0 and DVB-T2 with HEVC coding) can enable smarter and more efficient spectrum use. Improved technology isn’t enough, though. Imagination and flexible spectrum use for non-traditional TV services is required.

Wireless network congestion is the main catalyst behind the 21st century thirst for spectrum, and broadcast’s basic point-to-multipoint property is one that seems to be underappreciated in this on-demand era.

Unicast provides many of the on-demand conveniences, but it does not deliver fundamental efficiency. How do broadcasters harness the efficiency advantage to maximize the value (read: make more money) from the valuable real estate they operate?

Adopting the newest digital video TV systems is the first step. These systems can virtually increase capacity and operate with IP networks. Next, broadcasters must identify industries/entities using expensive point-to-point data distribution that can benefit from lower-cost broadcast distribution. This is being done, albeit quietly, and it’s in the early stages. Companies, such as Sinclair- and Nexstar-owned Spectrum Co. and Gaian Solutions with its Apollo Public TV Platform, appear to be thinking outside of TV signals as the first ATSC 3.0 systems roll out.

Their ideas range from partnering with local public institutions like first responders to building nationwide networks that enable mass distribution of data to vehicles or anything with a receiver. Hyper local distribution could also move data to industrial equipment or utility operations, for example. Some of these ideas are hypothetical and some have been tested.

It will take more than good ideas, though. In the U.S, for example, where terrestrial broadcasting is fragmented (albeit becoming less so with increasing industry consolidation) and has been exclusively used for delivering TV, there should be a standard enabling business customers to easily access capacity and software tools to build those applications. It will also require a robust and unified education effort to target industries that can benefit from broadcast distribution of data.

TV is in the DNA of broadcasters and always will be. But making broadcasters indispensable to industry and public institutions through data distribution just might be required to remain on some of the world’s most valuable real estate.