So long, farewell… my final CBCView blog post

sam-new

Well, I have to say this is a blog post that I never planned to write.

While I’m really excited about my new job and grateful for the opportunity to serve the broadcast industry as EVP/CTO of the NAB, I am sad about leaving my CBC family.

This blog will continue with other great and talented CBC team members contributing our views and perspectives on the industry and all things digital. Stay tuned for that.

It has been my great pleasure and honor to work at CBC for the past nineteen years. I grew up here working for the best broadcaster in the world and was blessed with opportunities beyond belief. I learned from the best in the business, not just about the business of broadcasting, but about life and how to lead it. Thank you!

As I reminisce about my time with CBC and the many people who have helped me along the way, there is so much to say…too much for a blog post. So, I have pulled a few pictures that speak to CBC’s values and beliefs. These are not just memories that I will take with me, but principles I will apply in my new role.

I resolve that while I may be gone, I will carry on the CBC beliefs.

I will strive for excellence.

John Harris, Pete Sockett, Jim Goodmon and me with prototype mobile DTV phones, a precursor to ATSC-MH.   WRAL demonstrated the technology in July of 2008.

John Harris, Pete Sockett, Jim Goodmon and me with prototype mobile DTV phones, a precursor to ATSC-MH. WRAL demonstrated the technology in July of 2008.

KICU transmitter site in San Jose California.  I was visiting as part of our work with Intel's Center for Datacast Innovation in 2000.

KICU transmitter site in San Jose California. I was visiting as part of our work with Intel’s Center for Datacast Innovation in 2000.

I will give back to my community.

2009 Triangle Area Red Cross board retreat.  CBC supported my tenure as board member and chairman.

2009 Triangle Area Red Cross board retreat. CBC supported my tenure as board member and chairman.

Sargent Greg Stube was our keynote speaker at the 2010 Red Cross Annual Meeting.  CBC sponsored the event.

Sargent Greg Stube was our keynote speaker at the 2010 Red Cross Annual Meeting. CBC sponsored the event.

I will value my employees as my greatest asset.

Ty and me enjoying a hot dog at CBC Family day at the Durham Bulls in 2000.

Ty and me enjoying a hot dog at CBC Family day at the Durham Bulls in 2000.

I will create a positive balance.

Microspace VP, Greg Hurt, with my son Liam at a family outing in 2002.

Microspace VP, Greg Hurt, with my son Liam at a family outing in 2002.

I will protect family values.

Ty, Tamara and me at the CBC Kids Holiday Party in 1999.

Ty, Tamara and me at the CBC Kids Holiday Party in 1999.

My family in 2006 with the Stanley Cup at a private showing just for CBC.

My family in 2006 with the Stanley Cup at a private showing just for CBC.

To all my CBC family: Thank you for all you have taught me, and all you do to make the world a better place.

Broadcast vs Streaming – World Cup Showdown

sam-new

 

I had the great opportunity to visit Seoul, Korea last week with the ATSC. We met with several great companies and broadcasters while there. A special thanks to LG Electronics, Samsung, ETRI, and MBC for hosting us, and the wonderful exchange of ideas.

While there I had the chance to witness first hand the benefits of mobile broadcasting on a grand scale. In Korea all TV stations transmit a mobile signal and phones have mobile TV tuners. Everywhere we went people were using their phones to watch TV – on the streets, in cabs, on buses and other mass transit, in buildings – without impacting their data plans or clogging up the pipes with high bit rate video.

The Gangnam district World Cup watch party in Seoul, Korea.

The Gangnam district World Cup watch party in Seoul, Korea.

One of our meetings was taking place while the Korean team was facing off against Russia in the World Cup. As such, we felt compelled to “test and monitor” system performance. On one tablet a Samsung VP was watching the game via streaming IP video and just next to him a Samsung engineer was watching the game via mobile DTV broadcast.

The Gangnam district World Cup watch party in Seoul, Korea.

The Gangnam district World Cup watch party in Seoul, Korea.

The broadcast arrived quicker as it doesn’t have the latency of streaming, so the Samsung engineer saw everything happen first.

But where it got really interesting was in the final 5-10 minutes of the game. The score was tied and things were getting tense. The number of folks trying to watch the game via streaming kept growing too, and got to approximately 2 million. And that is when the streaming video feed puked and died. Right at the best part of the game, the feed just stopped and started buffering and re-buffering and ultimately failed. There just wasn’t the capacity to support viewers in a unicast, one-stream-per-viewer, model. Meanwhile the broadcast performed flawlessly and our test was complete. Broadcast wins!

Now, 2-million connections are a lot, but it still broke. And Seoul has some of the best Internet connectivity in the world. Additionally, the Seoul metro area has over 24-million people, so the streaming system failed at about 8% penetration.

Mobile DTV in Korea provides a World Cup game to screens on buses.

Mobile DTV in Korea provides a World Cup game to screens on buses.

Mobile DTV in Korea provides a World Cup game to screens on buses.

Mobile DTV in Korea provides a World Cup game to screens on buses.

The Korean government, mobile carriers and broadcasters have realized what we in the US have not – that broadcast is a vital part of the mobile ecosystem. The soccer game proved it yet again. The game ended in a tie, but the Korean people are the real winners as they have a system that supports their consumption needs and will also be there to support them at other critical times, like in the event of a disaster where 100% of the people need instant access to vital information.

We in the US need to follow their lead.

FCC – No Whammies

sam-new

 

In what may be viewed as unrelated events at the FCC, I’d like to point out that the American public is getting hit with a double, or maybe even a triple whammy!

No_Whammies

As has been well documented on this blog and many others the FCC is currently pursuing a plan to take spectrum from broadcasters and auction it off to the highest bidder, most likely telecom companies. The last such event took place 5 short years ago and transferred 108 MHz of spectrum. This time the stated goal is 120 MHz.

The result of this is whammy #1.

Our country’s common medium, FREE over the air broadcasting, is under assault. The number one way people get their news and entertainment is being systematically attacked and plundered without regard to long-term implications for our democracy or society. No other medium provides such rich and compelling access to content to everyone, for free.

Now comes whammy #2.

Net Neutrality. Or more correctly stated the FCC’s plan to eliminate it. Wireless carriers already escaped responsibility to provide equal access to all content, and now the wire-line brethren are seeking to set up toll-roads on the information highway, as well as side roads, city streets, and even cul-de-sacs. In reality this is a dead-end and will undoubtedly harm fair and equal access to content and information.

And to put all of this in context, here comes whammy #3.

Consolidation. The companies that want to offer these non-neutral services keep buying or merging with one-another. In the latest round of merger-mania Comcast is attempting to acquire Time Warner Cable while AT&T wants to buy DIRECTV. The result is greater control of what content can go where and at what speed in the hands of fewer companies.

Putting more control in the hands of fewer people is a recipe for stagnation, not innovation. This approach is in direct contrast to the FCC’s written goal of revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism.

It’s no wonder some of our most prestigious universities are declaring that America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic.

Digital Transitions – Keeping The Momentum

sam-new

 
Last week at the ATSC Broadcast Television Conference I had the pleasure of talking about the planning required for a transition to a new broadcast television standard. It was a true honor as I was among some the great leaders in our industry.

Gordon Smith, President & CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters

Gordon Smith, President & CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters

Gordon Smith, President & CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters gave the keynote address and offered compelling and passionate comments about the important role of broadcast television in the United States.

Mark Richer, President of the Advanced Television Systems Committee

Mark Richer, President of the Advanced Television Systems Committee

Mark Richer, President of the ATSC, discussed the status of the standards development and the vibrant process that it entails. Unfortunately, no rubber chickens were awarded this year. However, there was a useless box, which may be even better.

Jim Kutzner was awarded the Bernie Lechner Award for outstanding service to the ATSC. This was well earned and a delight to see. Congratulations Jim!

Panel on 4K Ultra High Definition Television

Panel on 4K Ultra High Definition Television

There was a marvelous panel on 4K Ultra-High Definition Television led by Jeff Joseph, Sr. Vice President of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Designing a new standard is one thing. How we move to it is something else entirely. However, the two go hand-in-glove, so planning the transition must be part of the process.

Here are some tidbits I presented about our last transition when we moved from analog to digital television and some of the questions we need to be asking and addressing now as we plan for the next transition.

Sam Matheny, Vice President of Policy & Innovation, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Sam Matheny, Vice President of Policy & Innovation, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.

About the last transition:

The last transition of full power stations in the US took 13 years…from the 1996 Telecommunications Act to the 2009 shut off.

It included simulcasts of both analog and digital signals.

It had phased transmission requirements based on market size.

It had phased reception requirements based on screen size.

It included three delays, including a final 4-month delay that was signed into law just 1 week before the then current deadline.

It created lots of winners.

For the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers it delivered a hundreds of millions of new TV set sales and billions of dollars of revenue.

For the broadcasters it delivered sustainable relevancy in terms of quality – broadcasting HD meant we could offer viewers the best available pictures, sound and story telling. It also brought several new revenue opportunities in multicasting mobile, subscription and ancillary data services. Though the largest revenue streams may be from the sustained viewing of our channels that I believe would not be possible without being HD, and also the relationships that creates with our cable and satellite distribution partners for more equitable retransmission terms.

For the government it meant gaining access to spectrum that could be auctioned off to generate revenue. But, it also meant a strengthening of our nation’s common medium – free over the air television – with better quality, and a wider diversity of programming.

For the viewers it meant a whole new entertainment experience at home. Bigger screens, surround sound, and more channels. In my house with a pair of indoor rabbit ears and a converter box I can get over 22 channels of free OTA content. Dozens of new networks and channels have launched as digital sub-channels…movie channels, retro-TV channels, music channels, kids programming, lifestyle and entertainment channels, shopping channels, and ethnic channels.

All of this is reflected in resurgence of OTA viewing too. OTA and OTT are proving a powerful combination to provide linear and on-demand content. People are cutting cords in record numbers and Household TV viewing is averaging 4.5 hours per day.

Sam Matheny, Vice President of Policy & Innovation, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Sam Matheny, Vice President of Policy & Innovation, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.

Here are some thoughts I presented about the next transition:

We are focused on how to create lots of winners again. How can we put this puzzle together in a way such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We are focused on keeping the momentum with quality, diversity, and business opportunities…

We are looking at scenarios and issues. We are dissecting and cross-referencing these to see what combinations produce problems and which ones provide solutions.

Examples of scenarios:
• Flash Cut – date certain, no simulcast – light switch approach
• Simulcast – like the last transition – simulcast for a time with a firm schedule to switch
• Voluntary – what if moving to 3.0 were optional?
• Regional transitions

Issues:

Impact on audience
• What will viewers have to do to get this new signal?
• How will receivers get into the market?
• What is the likelihood of losing or gaining viewers?
• What education is required?

Possibility for interference
• In market
• Adjacent market
• Co-channel
• Adjacent channel
• Between standards if there is a simulcast
• What are our levers to manage interference?
o Where is the easy button?

Duration
• Start date
• End date
• Supply chain – construction and transmission side
• Supply chain – how do devices roll out

Availability of Spectrum
• Is spectrum required?
• If yes, where will it come from?
• How does the timing of the auction impact this?
• Is there an opportunity to pair the transition with the auction?
• How could that be beneficial to all parties?

Industry partners
• Cable/satellite/telco “handshakes and handoffs”
• Testing / Certification

As you can see, we have more questions than answers right now. But the work is under way.

CALM On-Demand

sam-new

 
I was watching TV last night with my wife. She loves The Good Wife on CBS and Will was dead. She had to see what happened and how the show could go on without him.

We watched the show on-demand via Time Warner Cable. We watched on-demand as I had recently turned in my DVR to save money, but that is another story. However, it proved interesting as it revealed a big tech issue for me.

During the show I was unable to skip commercials, which is fine as I believe in advertising and I know how important it is to our business. But, one thing I didn’t expect was I found myself having to turn the volume down every time the commercials came on. The commercials were significantly louder than the programming and it was impossible to find a happy medium between the two as the disparity was so great.

I was like, “Whoa! I haven’t had to do this in a while. They need CALM OD.” By that I mean CALM On-Demand. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, read on…

In 2010 the US government passed a law that requires broadcasters and MVPDs to put a system in place that would eliminate commercials that are significantly louder than the core programming that is being viewed. Well, the system wouldn’t actually eliminate the commercials, but it would adjust the volume to be more in-line with the programming and hopefully give viewers a more consistent experience.

loud-noises

Marketers thought by making the commercial louder than the programming it would draw attention to the product being advertised. They were right, but the result was it pissed people off so much that an act of congress – you know, that thing that is so difficult that it has become a euphemism for impossible – took place. It was called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or simply CALM Act.

shamwow

The ATSC was tasked with developing the system to make this possible and a great deal of work was undertaken by the members to design and implement at system that worked for everyone: broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers, cable companies, satellite companies, and of course, the viewers.

Broadcasters were required to invest to meet and adopt these new standards. This TV Technology article is a good historic indicator of how hot the topic was and the kind of gear that had to be purchased, installed, managed and upgraded to comply with the CALM Act. Going further, the FCC can fine broadcasters for violations of the CALM Act. The regulations began to be enforced by the FCC at the end of 2012.

So, now I’m wondering if Congress will pursue and adopt CALM OD. It seems ridiculous that broadcasters should have to go through so many technical hoops to adopt a technology that is simply ignored on other platforms.

Innovation Defined – Duke Children’s Hospital Radiothon

sam-new

 

There are several types of innovation. So often, especially with this blog, we focus on new technologies that have the potential to change the way we live and work. But often it is not a new technology, but a new application of an existing technology, that really makes a difference.

And so it was 21 years ago when Capitol Broadcasting Company became the first radio station owner in the country to do a radio telethon to raise money for charity. CBC’s Baltimore radio station broke new ground with a “radiothon” (yes, we had to invent the word) fundraiser for Johns Hopkins Hospital. A year later the general manager of that station was promoted to run WRAL-FM here in Raleigh and he brought the concept with him to create the WRAL-FM Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital.

Twenty years ago our first Duke Children's Hospital radiothon raised $125,000.

Twenty years ago our first Duke Children’s Hospital radiothon raised $125,000.

And it has made a difference! Today the Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital is the second oldest radiothon in the nation and has raised over $15 Million to help the hospital serve kids suffering from cancer, heart problems, infectious diseases and more.

Vanna Fox is the innovative leader whose passion has made WRAL-FM's  Duke Children's Hospital radiothon so successful.

Vanna Fox is the innovative leader whose passion has made WRAL-FM’s Duke Children’s Hospital radiothon so successful.

Vanna Fox coordinates the radiothon for WRAL-FM and in 2007 raised over $1 Million for the first time. We have continued to do so every year since. The Radiothon for Duke Children’s Hospital is consistently one of the top radiothons in the country and it is unique in another way too. Every penny raised goes directly to the hospital.

Unlike many stations that have mimicked our general radiothon concept, we’ve further applied business innovation to make sure the maximum possible amount of money goes straight to the purpose intended, helping Duke Children’s Hospital help sick children. WRAL-FM doesn’t keep a cent!

Individual donor participation is critical and is how the majority of funds are raised.

Please consider joining us by making a donation and by helping spread the word via some of those new fangled Internet innovations like Facebook and Twitter.

So while new technologies like Pandora and Spotify are neat, radio is really cool and innovative, and we make a difference in the lives of our listeners and their children.

You can learn more about Duke Children’s Hospital here.

Super Bowl of Streaming

sam-new

I remember in 1999 when Mark Cuban attempted to stream a Victoria’s Secret fashion show and the internet ground to a halt. 

VictoriaSecret_finale

I think about 1.5 million people were able to access the show successfully, though they probably only got patch of pixels so blurry that the FCC would have found it acceptable “coverage” for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction of 2004 Super Bowl infamy. 

wardrobe-malfunction

Many others fell completely flat and were not able to connect at all.

While some decried the service and declared that streaming video would never work, I thought it only proved that people were willing to tune in if the content was right.  I saw it as a harbinger, not a failure.

Fast forward to today, a decade and half later, and folks are still experimenting with how best to offer live streams of popular content.  This Variety Article explains how Fox and CBS are taking different tacks with their streaming plans for the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.

2014SuperBowlLogo

Some will be free, some will be require cable/satellite subscriptions (but only certain MVPDs qualify), some will be only on specific web sites — confusing for sure — and none of it will match the quality or resolution of broadcast television. The super-large majority of folks will watch the Super Bowl as broadcast by their local Fox affiliate, giving them the best picture quality on the best screen in the house.

However, as a guy who watched Oklahoma stick it to Bama last night on my iPad while waiting in the Starbucks at the airport with no other viewing option, I found the streaming pretty good.

Saban-mad

When it comes to the Super Bowl though, it would just be simpler for everyone if the local station could offer it.

Rumors of Demise Greatly Exaggerated

sam-new

I enjoyed this article from The Atlantic and geeked out on the stats from Nielsen. Bottom line: television is strong, and even with “tech savvy teens”…but pay attention as habits are evolving.

It really speaks to something that we are working to understand, which is the long term trends and habits of viewers. As the next generation comes of age the habits they form now will drive how they consume media later. This was one of the reasons we invested in Philo and is also why we were the first station in the country to deploy a smart TV offering back in 2009.

  • 71% of Gen i / Plurals / the kids after Gen Y have a TV in their bedroom
  • They watch about 25 hours per week of TV
  • For folks under age 35 (Gen Y and Gen i) — they use OTT and other means to add to their video viewing or compliment TV, not replace it.
  • A full 12% are OTT only though…so that is beginning to be a meaningful audience if it grows.

Nielsen’s full report can be downloaded here.

What TV can learn from Public Radio

sam-new

I really enjoyed Alan Mutter’s blog post about newspapers and NPR.

As I read it I simply substituted “TV station” for “newspaper” and much of it related.

My favorite observation is where Mutter declares NPR’s success is because it’s digital strategy is, “…purpose-built to leverage the full array of digital technology for each audience and application.”

This is an approach anyone trying to succeed in digital should apply.

On a slightly different though related note, I recall an analyst report from NAB Futures earlier this year that stated the average of a CBS viewer is 49, but the average age of a CBS iPad viewer is 29. The observation at this conference was that it isn’t just the content, but the device, that will skew audience numbers.

See the parallels…

Media Ownership – Rockefeller Request

sam-new

As a small, family owned local broadcaster we very much believe in the unique and important role that a plurality of voices provides for our country’s democracy.

In an age of big media getting bigger and the Internet going everywhere, it begs the question of what role the government should play in defining the media landscape.

A handful of companies control wireless (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint), another handful of companies control cable and satellite (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Dish, DirectTV — not counting AT&T and Verizon, who also play in this space), with another handful of networks controlling programming (ABC/Disney, CBS, Fox, NBC Universal – owned by Comcast), and more consolidation is happening every day.

Many broadcasters feel that they are at a sincere disadvantage in this oligopolous landscape, and they are doing everything they can to bulk up within the legal framework that applies station ownership limits.

With Tom Wheeler now firmly in place as the new FCC Chairman, Senator Rockefeller has asked the Chairman for a review of how broadcasters are working to get as big as possible. It is a worthy review and one that we should be continually doing, not just for broadcasting, but for the many other industries that impact how Americans get their information.

Here is a link to a L.A. Times article that more fully covers Senator Rockefeller’s request.