Goodbye Analog, Hello Digital

This coming June marks the two-year anniversary of America’s transformation from analog to digital TV, a move called the Digital TV Transition. Although talks of digital TV began in Congress as early as 1996, the official change was finalized on June 12, 2009, which was the deadline for TV stations to stop broadcasting analog signals.

So why was this change made, you ask? Well for one, digital TV allows for TV programming to be offered with better picture and sound quality. Furthermore, digital TV gives broadcasters the option of multicasting, which enables them to offer multiple programming choices such as the choice between standard definition and high definition programs. The official government website for the transformation offers some more information here.

Consumers across the U.S. had to make preparations before the transition took place, including but not limited to the purchase of a converter box for TVs that could encode only analog signals. About 69 million TV sets were affected by the transition that, according to David Rehr, was “the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced.”

Although America was not the first country in the world to make this transition, it definitely was the first large one to do so. Countries such as Japan, the U.K., Australia and Canada had already begun their transition in 2009 or earlier, but had completion dates later than that of the U.S. A few days after the transition, Jonathan Collegio, vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, announced the success of the change when he said, “America is the first large country in the world to complete the transition to all-digital broadcasting, and our early reports show that the transition has been a success.”

This webpage gives an overview of how other countries compare to the U.S. in terms of the digital TV switch.

Although the details of the differences between digital and analog are quite technical and can be hard to understand, PBS offers a brief comparison that not only points out the differences, but also highlights the advantages of digital over analog.

The transition to digital TV has been a triumphant one, and exemplifies just one of many technological changes that have been made in recent years.

2011 Study of Broadcast Industry Trends

An important factor in the growth of any industry is the study of its growth and of changes that occur over time. With the rapid changes in technology that have taken place in recent years, it’s important to keep an eye out for changing trends within the broadcast industry.

Devoncroft, a company that focuses on market research and strategic analysis for digital media, conducts an annual global study of the broadcast industry, including trends, technology purchasing plans and benchmarking of broadcast technology vendor brands. In 2011, over 8,000 companies from more than 100 countries participated in the Big Broadcast Survey, making it the largest market study ever conducted in the broadcast industry.

An important part of the BBS is the Broadcast Industry Global Trend Index, a ranking of industry trends that are most important to survey participants in any given year. This index gives consumers an idea about the commercial importance of emerging trends, as opposed to industry buzz or technology hype related to the trends.

In 2011, the trend that ranked number one was multi-platform content delivery, a result identical to that of 2010. In 2009, however, the switch to HDTV dominated the list, while multi-platform content-delivery ranked number four.

The results of this year’s survey prove that broadcast corporations are concentrating on the potential of incremental revenue streams made possible by multi-platform delivery. With the increased availability of video content, broadcasters are searching for ways to increase profitability by utilizing technology to perfect the quality of said content for any platform.

Transition to HDTV operations, file-based/tapeless workflows, and IP networking and content delivery were the next three items on the list. It is the third year in a row that the transition to HDTV makes it to the top of the list, highlighting the importance of this change. The switch to tapeless workflows makes broadcasters’ work more efficient and cost effective, an aspect that became especially important throughout the recession and continues to be vital as the industry works hard to recover from the recession.

To read more about the BBS and to find out what other trends made the list, check out this link. If you’d like to learn more about how the 2011 survey compares to the 2010 survey, click here.

Broadcast Meets Broadband

Internet Protocol TV is the TV of tomorrow, here today. Get ready to bid farewell to broadcast, because IPTV is gaining traction and although imperfect, holds many advantages over traditional broadcast TV.

Before delving into a comparison between IPTV and broadcast, let us gain an understanding of what IPTV is. Watch this YouTube video that provides a brief description of the way IPTV works.

In short, IPTV is a technology that allows TV broadcasts to be delivered via broadband Internet, as opposed to over broadcast waves. Televisions are linked directly to Internet routers that directly receive and transcode digital signals. It is easy for broadband service providers to offer IPTV since the infrastructure is already in place. Examples are Verizon’s FiOS and Comcast’s XFINITY.

The advantages IPTV has over broadcast are numerous. First of all, IPTV allows for the integration of services. It allows consumers to get broadband Internet, IPTV, and VoIP from the service provider over one line, which cuts costs and is more efficient for both parties involved. IPTV also makes the TV-watching experience more interactive by allowing viewers to purchase products through their TVs or request statistical information about programs they’ve watched, for example.

IPTV also gives viewers the option of Video on Demand, which allows them to easily watch programs that have already been aired. Moreover, the quality of IPTV is superior to that of broadcast because more bandwidth is available. Check out this webpage to read more about IPTV and its pros and cons, and this one to learn more about its advantages.

A feature of IPTV that is most attractive to advertisers is narrowcasting, which is basically advertising targeted at a narrow segment of the public. Wikipedia offers a great explanation of what narrowcasting is here. Because IPTV is set up over the Internet, it makes it easy for service providers to collect information about viewers in terms of the kinds of programming they watch and when they watch TV the most.

This information gives the providers the ability to select specific advertisements that, based on the information they’ve collected, they believe are most suited to a specific, targeted audience, and send them out via broadband. This topic is a rather complex one with many facets, and this is a blog post that provides more information about it.

Although IPTV has yet to become ubiquitous, it possesses great potential and is definitely becoming more widespread globally. Because it is linked to the Internet, it has many features that traditional broadcast does not, and thus threatens the future of broadcast, as we know it.

They Report? No, iReport.

There was a time when reporters were their own class of people. They – through their organizations, no doubt – brought the news to the people. They defined what the news was and presented it in the manner that they saw fit.

That time is a part of our distant past now. Thanks to cell phones, cameras, the Internet and various other technologies, we the people are the new reporters. We the people now have the means to tell stories we think are worth telling with almost absolute certainty that we will find an audience.

Welcome to the age of citizen journalism, where anyone with the proper tools can be a journalist, no journalism background required.

Click here gain a more basic understanding of what citizen journalism really means.

Such a fundamental change in what it means to be a journalist does not come without any major effects on the journalistic organizations that have been in place for many years. CNN is an example of a renowned news organization that took citizen journalism and not only accepted it, but developed it into an integral part of its existence.

CNN’s iReport is a web-based platform that allows users to upload content that they find interesting. They can share images, audio and video to tell their own stories or add to stories that are already floating around in the news.  Users can vote for iReports that they think are significant, and these reports are then broadcast on television for the entire world to see.

iReport has become a significant aspect of the news on CNN. Famed journalists such as Anderson Cooper are inviting their audiences to enter the realm of citizen journalism. Suddenly, it matters what the general public thinks is important.

It is amazing to see the extent to which digital technologies have changed the face of journalism. Citizen journalism has changed not only who we’re getting the news from, but also what kind of news we’re reading about online or watching on television in terms of both content and quality.

So what kind of impact will this change in quality have on broadcast news?

A characteristic of iReport is that it is unfiltered and unedited content. However, because CNN is still accountable to its audience, iReports only make it to television after they have been vetted by the corporation. Although the quality of the online content is not always top notch, CNN ensures that whatever is broadcast on television is accurate.

To find out more about the overall process, take a look at this page on the iReport website.

It’s important that as people of the world and as potential citizen journalists, we maintain a watchful eye on iReport and the likes, and continue to take note as to how citizen participation is changing the news as we know it.

YouTube’s Influence on Broadcast

YouTube.

Six short years ago, this term meant absolutely nothing. It has now developed into a household name that is used both as a noun and as a verb.

When YouTube was established six years ago, it gave people the ability to upload their videos and share them with the world. By telling the world, “Broadcast Yourself,” YouTube opened up the doors for people to be heard by individuals all across the globe. It gave them the chance to create names for themselves merely by uploading content that someone, somewhere would be interested in watching.

The idea picked up quickly, and YouTube became a global phenomena. It has grown into a digital media platform that contains videos on any possible topic. It is so popular, in fact, that 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

YouTube is an online tool, which brings us to ask what effect it could possibly have on broadcast. YouTube’s popularity has grown to the level that people spend hours per day watching videos online, which detracts from the time that they have available to watch television.

As YouTube began pulling people worldwide from their TV screens, producers had to come up with a way to fight back. If they couldn’t bring YouTube viewers to television, Why not bring television to YouTube viewers?

Television networks globally have taken advantage of YouTube’s “channel” feature and have started posting some of their programming online. This way, the new digitally-connected society can access content that is aired on television from their laptops, computers, iPads and even smartphones.

Some networks that have joined the world of YouTube are CNN, ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS and even international networks such as AlJazeera and the BBC. Their YouTube channels offer a variety of news and entertainment programming, but most importantly allow the stations to reach out to their dwindling television audiences.

YouTube is not the only form of digital media that broadcast networks have adapted to. They are also making appearances on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and it will be interesting to observe to what extent digital media will impact the broadcast industry.

Is it possible that television will become obsolete as a medium? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it is important that we pay attention to the adaptations of the broadcast industry to new media, because the reverberations of new media have the potential to be colossal.

HD Changes TV

Slowly but surely, high definition is replacing standard definition as the norm for many TV channels. This change is far from unexpected, as advancements in technology are allowing us to upgrade even the minutest aspects of our lives.

One of the most significant adjustments I noticed as I began watching HD was the way makeup differed from standard to high definition programming. If I watch a program in SD on ABC, for example, and then watch it again in HD, I realize that the makeup is much more visible in SD. I have come to the conclusion that news anchors began to adjust their makeup to meet the improved quality of high definition TV.

I think this is one of those things that we, as viewers, don’t even think about it. We think of high definition merely as the advancement of picture technology without pondering the changes that have incurred behind the scenes as a result of it.

We must realize that applying more makeup to hide wrinkles that the camera normally hides is just a single amendment that has been made in the world of broadcast. Because the images produced by high definition cameras are so vivid and sharp, the manner in which makeup is applied as well as the methods used for filming have changed a lot.

To read more about the changes that are taking place, read this article I found on MSNBC.

Although I think that HD is great, the changes that developed as a result of it worry me a bit. I fear that news anchors will begin to focus more on the aesthetics to ensure that they look absolutely perfect, and that this will lead them to lose sight of the primary task at hand, which is delivering the news.

Perhaps my fears are unqualified, as these are just the musings of a second-year college student, but I think we need to be very cautious of the changes technology is rapidly bringing about.

As someone who hopes to have a future in broadcast, I think it is vastly important that I stay up to date with these transformations. Although I don’t plan on working in front of the camera and these changes won’t directly impact me, it is crucial that I remain updated on the impact, both direct and indirect, that technology is having on production.

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