NAB 2016

CBS’s Seidel Gives 3.0 A Lukewarm Reception

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?

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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Comments (17)

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Jim Goodmon says:

April 22, 2016 at 8:46 am

As to leasing bits to others, those with short memories might not remember that was the business plan for at least two nationwide companies 15 years ago, where are they now? And to setting up “host stations”, that seems to come from one of the largest groups that already have two channels in a large number of markets, how convenient…..

Matthew Castonguay says:

April 22, 2016 at 10:04 am

He’s a BROADCAST engineer, right? No thoughts about efficiency of delivery as he pulls out his OTT app? As far as the idea that preserving subchannels is more important in the strategic scheme of things than having a digital/IP and mobile-friendly transmission scheme – that’s just risible. No one brought him the business plan? That’s a joke, right?

    jacquie franciulli says:

    April 22, 2016 at 11:36 am

    My reaction, too, Rocker. Someone needs to show him the business plan? Isn’t he paid in his role as VP of Engineering and Advanced Tech to try to figure this stuff out for Moonves and Peter Dunn? He should drive up to Baltimore and talk with the folks at Sinclair. They seem to have it figured out.

Ellen Samrock says:

April 22, 2016 at 11:06 am

” There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” So said Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. in 1977. There will always be mediocrities like Ken Olson or Bob Seidel making dismissive comments on new technology simply because they lack the imagination to see its potential. These aren’t people I would want as employees. I think Mr. Seidel just shot himself in the foot professionally.

Matthew Castonguay says:

April 22, 2016 at 11:26 am

Roger, this may be less about Seidel’s capabilities/vision…it may be an inartful way of trying to stay in line with a corporate agenda?

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 22, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    That may be, but he was surrounded by engineers who fully embrace 3.0. Seidel did himself no credibility favors by sticking out like a corporate lap dog and dismiss 3.0. Citing CBS All Access, a six dollar a month subscription service to CBS content, is not a business plan of the future. It’s pay TV+. I quote Ken Olson because back in ’77 there was no software for computers as we know it (certainly nothing for home or small business owners) and you had to be an expert at machine language commands to use one. And if Don Estridge, whose team launched the IBM PC in 1981, or the two Steves with the Apple GUI operating system had thought the same way we probably would not have personal computers as we know them today or the plethora of software to use with them. Sure, there is no business plan for 3.0 beyond multi-casting. But all the technical, future-proof elements are there for such a plan. It just takes vision and imagination which apparently Seidel and the suits at CBS and the other major networks lack.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I should also mention, as a reminder, that the FCC is attempting to push as many broadcasters as possible back on to the VHF band. We know 8VSB does not work well on VHF. So people who rely on terrestrial broadcasting, and insist on keeping 1.0, would end up losing a number of channels anyway as these stations are forced to repack to the VHF band. ATSC 3.0 with the OFDM transmission standard and the potential for SFNs will work well on VHF. That alone should be reason enough for everyone, broadcasters and viewers alike, to migrate to 3.0.

    jacquie franciulli says:

    April 22, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Roger, you’re the Boss. Great points. Thx for sharing your POV.

Thomas Hubler says:

April 22, 2016 at 11:28 am

Finally…someone has finally said the ATSC 3.0 emperor has no clothes..!

    Christina Perez says:

    April 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Correct, but someone in the biz needs to go further by stating the REAL “business plan”: KILL OFF FREE OVER THE AIR TV AND MAKE ALL TV, PAY TV. This former TV industry trade journalist is mounting a campaign to alert Congress to the hidden agenda of the ATSC 3.0 “movement.”

    Wagner Pereira says:

    April 25, 2016 at 4:49 am

    Sort of hard to kill off OTA TV when ATSC 3.0 allows for greater OTA Abilities, including Mobile and UHD. As typical, @PhillyPhool and @Flashfool need to find out what they are talking about before posting!

Julien Devereux says:

April 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

So soon there will be a new broadcast standard, and they’re worried about DISENFRANCHISING viewers? How about totally ticking them off because once again, they’re going to have to go out and spend hundreds to thousands of dollars replacing the TVs. Didn’t we just go through this a few years ago? Is this yet another tactic to make millions of TV sales and to make TV stations, once again, get all new equipment? Sure looks like it to me. Just last night, I was watching my 60″ flat screen, and thought that I missed my CRT and the warmth of the picture and the lack of motion juddering.

    Matthew Castonguay says:

    April 22, 2016 at 11:36 am

    You missed your…presumably analog, SD 4×3 CRT…very funny.

    Tanya Pavluchuk says:

    April 22, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    So an ATSC 3.0 tuner on a HDMI stick wouldn’t work for you? Switch your TV to that HDMI port and call it done…..

Scott Cote says:

April 22, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I’d like to ask Mr. Seidel who he expects to come and tell him/them the business plan. I don’t believe he understands the standardization process(es).

Amneris Vargas says:

April 22, 2016 at 3:14 pm

3.0 v. “CBS all access”. Talk about show me the business plan.

    Joel Ordesky says:

    April 22, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    At least All Access has a revenue plan. Anytime you can get $5.99/mo for programming that you give away for free is a pretty good thing. 3.0/OFDM promises to bring more free TV to everyone. Imagine not needing outdoor antennas. Manufacturers may bring back TV’s with built-in antennas that actually work well. Or set-top boxes with built-in antennas. No hassle free-TV for everyone. Now that’s a business plan.

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