Analysis: Shouldn't broadcasters promote free OTA more?


RBR-TVBR Analysis:

After penning a recent story about how viewers are starting to realize how many new choices are out there from their local broadcast stations from over the air multiplexed channels, we have to wonder in this era of spectrum grabbing by the FCC, why broadcasters are not promoting the fact that they have free over the air signals (sometimes quite a few per broadcaster), that in many cases is technologically superior to HD, and that the muliplexed channels even exist.

CEA CEO Gary Shapiro in his 1/6 co-keynote at CES with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski decided to level in on re-allocation of TV spectrum for broadband. If NAB CEO Gordon Smith really wanted to get some grassroots support against spectrum grab he could frame the argument for the need for OTA as sort of the equivalent of a form of net-neutrality—a free alternative.

Broadcasters and NAB should be producing and running PSAs on the positives of OTA signals. At least that they are available—kind of like how they saturated the airwaves before the switch to DTV. There are a ton of channels out there in each market now with multiplexed offerings–everything from classic TV, movies, local weather and news, foreign language, etc. They should get out there and promote it more.

The NAB is currently running an educational PSA effort on radio and TV which informs consumers on all of the new technologies and services shaping the medium’s future.  It drives listeners and viewers to , which reads “It’s HD, 3D, mobile TV — technology, not regulation from Washington, D.C.” That’s a good start, at least in the fight against spectrum grab.

We think more effort should be made in specifically educating consumers that free OTA is now a real choice against cable and satellite. Each market should be airing PSAs about how many free channels are available there and some specifics on the content choices. Also, a bit about how easy it is to hook it all up, now that all new TVs are DTV-ready.

We should also note that revenue from subchannels in major markets is starting to affect the bottom line for broadcasters. If you are doing a specialized niche channel leased to say, a Hungarian broadcaster, we have heard major market stations can get upwards of $100,000 a month for a 2-mb subchannel. And remember, 100% of that goes to the bottom line—no music licenses, no commissions, nothing.

So get out there and see that you can do locally to help NAB fight to keep your valuable spectrum. A lot of viewers are noticing free OTA again and how much money it can save them. If we as an industry help now to make them aware that it is being grabbed away in increments for broadband, they may start writing their congressmen.