The CBS tech exec says he has two big questions over plans to move to the next-gen standard: will viewers lose programming now available on subchannels and what is the business plan?
CBS’s Seidel Gives 3.0 A Lukewarm Reception
Concern about cutting off viewers of CBS O&Os and affiliates from digital subchannels, and questions over the business case for next-generation TV has led CBS VP of Engineering and Advanced Technology Bob Seidel to give a lukewarm reception to ATSC 3.0.
“It’s not that we are against ATSC 3.0, but no one has come to us and told us the business plan,” Seidel said during an interview on the convention floor Thursday hours before the 2016 NAB Show closed.
The impromptu interview was prompted by comments Seidel reportedly made to a room full of CBS affiliate station engineers earlier in the week that were less than glowing about the next-gen TV standard.
When asked about the comments, Seidel said his primary concern was that there is no transition plan for a move from today’s TV standard (ATSC A/53, recently dubbed ATSC 1.0) to ATSC 3.0 that does not “disenfranchise viewers.”
For the transition, proponents of 3.0 have suggested setting up “host” stations in each market that would simulcast the signals of the 3.0 stations using the current ATSC 1.0 standard. In that way, viewers with ATSC 1.0 sets would continue to receive current service.
However, it’s unclear if that approach would make accommodation for digital subchannels currently being transmitted, which Seidel said is cause for his concern about disenfranchising viewers.
The other reason for Seidel’s tepid response to the new TV standard comes down to business. “What’s the business case?” he asked.
Retrieving his smart phone from his pocket, Seidel pulled up CBS All Access, the network’s TV Everywhere solution that makes its programming and that of participating affiliates available over the top.
Pointing to the screen, Seidel said CBS All Access already provides the network and its affiliates with a way to reach viewers in the home on their computers, smart TVs and TVs equipped with OTT boxes like Roku as well as on the go via their smartphones.
When asked about the other services next-gen TV proponents envision for 3.0 and the business models they create, such as leasing bandwidth to third parties to deliver their bit flows via broadcasters’ OTA pipes and last-mile connectivity for OTT operators like Netflix, Seidel replied that he was not saying there is no business case for 3.0, simply that no one has shown one to the network.
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