Computer-capable TVs may fuel over-air resurgence


Broadcast full-power television is now digital. And consumer electronics companies are about to put digital internet-capable receivers on the market, which retailers will accompany with subscriptions to a library of video entertainment. According to Wall Street Journal, it may be more than enough for consumers to cut their cable or telco cord, or ditch their dish, set up an antenna and go back to being an OTA broadcast household.

WSJ says that is exactly what is happening in Europe, where the digital transition has had more time to mature.

The theory is that the scheduled-program view-by-appointment model will be less and less acceptable to consumers in a digital world, except for news, sports and special event programming. If consumers can buy their own hardware, get connected and kiss their MVPD bill good-bye, they will.

“It just so happens that over-the-air broadcasters, now that they have multiple, crystalline hi-def digital channels at their disposal, may prove the best way to deliver live programming over a given geographical area.” wrote WSJ. “After a recent column on this subject, several readers emailed to say they’ve already dropped cable and now get their video from a combination of free HDTV plus on-demand downloads from the likes of Netflix, iTunes or Amazon.”

The numbers in Europe: In three years, digital OTA households increased dramatically, from 31M to 43M households, and are expected to hit 59M households by 2013.

RBR-TVBR observation: In other words, if the FCC is trying to promote competition in broadband delivery, OTA television figures to be a major player and will begin making its move later this year. It is clearly the wrong time to be siphoning away spectrum that may be helping to achieve the FCC’s own overarching goal – universal broadband access.