DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING: Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree

Master of Multimedia

Swinburne University of Technology
© 2002, Updated 2003 Jeffrey Bird
Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

 Jeffrey Bird (July, 2002), (Updated May 2003). PO Box 455, Cheltenham, Victoria 3192, Australia. Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

ABSTRACT
This thesis will provide a broad overview of the digital television landscape, providing the reader with an understanding of the underlying technologies, their potential to offer new and improved services, as well as their inherent risks. Focusing on digital television enhancements, High Definition television, High Definition content acquisition and interactive television, this thesis will reveal a rapidly evolving set of technologies that promise to significantly alter the television viewing experience, from dramatically improved pictures to viewer initiated interaction and content control. On the basis of this information, content producers, broadcasters, advertisers and other interested parties will be assisted in identifying the opportunities, trends and potential pitfalls of digital television broadcasting.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Thank you to BroadbandBananas for permitting the use of numerous iTV screenshots in this thesis. Also thanks to a number of other organisations/individuals for providing visual material, including: Sony; the European Broadcasting Union; Ray Cordero/Home Theatre Magazine; CEA; Lemac; iTV Marketer; eMarketer; Access Conferences; UEC; and TiVo.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page

ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.........................................................................................v TABLE OF CONTENTS ...........................................................................................vi LIST OF TABLES......................................................................................................ix

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 1.2 1.3 Introduction...............................................................................................13 Scope .......................................................................................................13 Overview ..................................................................................................14

CHAPTER 2 DIGITAL TELEVISION 2.1 2.2 Introduction to Television Transmission Formats .....................................15 Analogue Terrestrial Broadcast Standards ................................................15 2.1.1 Aspect Ratios...................................................................................16 2.2.2 Bandwidth .......................................................................................16 2.2.3 Interlacing .......................................................................................16 2.3 2.4 2.5 Digital Television Transmission Standards ...............................................17 DVB, ATSC and ISDB..............................................................................18 The Viewing Experience of Digital Television ..........................................21 2.5.1 Improved Imagery ...........................................................................21 2.5.2 Widescreen Television.....................................................................21 2.5.3 Sound. ............................................................................................24 2.5.4 Multiview ........................................................................................25 2.5.5 Closed Captioning ...........................................................................25 2.5.6 Multi-channeling .............................................................................26 2.6 Implications of Multi-channeling..............................................................27

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2.6.1 Viewer Fragmentation .....................................................................28

CHAPTER 3 HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISION 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Defining HDTV ........................................................................................34 American HDTV Standard ........................................................................35 DVB-T HDTV Standard............................................................................35 HDTV Displays.........................................................................................39 HDTV Conspiracy Theories ......................................................................43 HDTV Implementation: Choice Versus Quality.........................................45 3.6.1 HDTV in Europe and the United Kingdom ......................................45 3.6.2 HDTV in Australia ..........................................................................47 3.6.3 Australian Opposition to HDTV ......................................................50 3.6.4 United States ...................................................................................52 3.7 3.8 3.9 HDTV Content Creation ............................................................................57 Digital HD ................................................................................................58 24P, The New Digital Film........................................................................59

3.10 HD Acquisition .........................................................................................61 3.11 Film versus HD .........................................................................................63

CHAPTER 4 INTERACTIVE TELEVISION 4.1 4.2 Defining Interactive Television .................................................................68 ITV Applications.......................................................................................70 4.2.1 Information Services........................................................................70 4.2.2 Communication Applications...........................................................75 4.2.3 Enhanced TV...................................................................................77 4.2.4 Games .............................................................................................87 4.2.5 T-Commerce....................................................................................89 4.2.6 ITV Advertising...............................................................................94 4.3 Personalised TV ........................................................................................98 4.3.1 Electronic Program Guides ..............................................................98 4.3.2 Personal Video Recorders ................................................................99

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4.3.3 Video-On-Demand (VOD).............................................................104 4.3.4 Internet Television .........................................................................106 4.3.5 Datacasting ....................................................................................107 4.4 Viewing Expectations..............................................................................111

CHAPTER 5 CONTENT ACQUISITION 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Reconciling Formats In A Time Of Transition.........................................115 Video Acquisition Formats......................................................................115 Analogue Video Formats.........................................................................115 Standard Definition Digital Video ...........................................................116 5.4.1 Compression ................................................................................118 5.4.2 Sampling Ratios ...........................................................................119 5.4.3 Bit Rate and Date Rates................................................................120 5.4.4 Digital Formats.............................................................................120 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Resolution Wars ......................................................................................122 Lenses .....................................................................................................126 The CCD.................................................................................................127 Film Acquisition......................................................................................127 Future Proof Film ....................................................................................128

CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION 6.1 Conclusions.............................................................................................131

REFERENCES ........................................................................................................135

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List of Tables
Table 3.1 Table 3.2 ATSC Table 3 Formats For DTV Transmission Table 3.2 Standards Australia AS 4599-1999 Television Formats.

List of Figures
Figure 2.1 Figure 2.2 Figure 3.1 Figure 3.2 Figure 3.3 Figure 3.4 Figure 3.5 Figure 3.6 Figure 3.7 Figure 3.8 Figure 3.8b Figure 3.9 Figure 4.1 Figure 4.2 Figure 4.3 Figure 4.4 Figure 4.5 Figure 4.6 Figure 4.7 Figure 4.8 Figure 4.9 Figure 4.10 Figure 4.11 Figure 4.12 Figure 4.13 Figure 4.14 Figure 4.15 Figure 4.16 Figure 4.17 Figure 4.18 Figure 4.19 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios Transmission options within total bandwidth Projector Home Theater System. Marantz PD5010D 50-Inch Plasma HD Monitor. Hitachi 43UWX10B 43-Inch HD Monitor. Five fastest growing consumer electronic products in the United States. HD studio camera on The Tonight Show. Sony HDW-F900 CineAlta with matte box and viewfinder extension. Sony HDW-F900 CineAlta in camcorder mode. Panasonic AJ-HDC27, 720p HD camera. JVC JY-HD10U MiniDV Camcorder. Image size area difference between Super 16mm and 35mm film. Austar iDaily news application. Austar’s iWeather application TPS METEO EXPRESS application. Elle Cuisine Recipe magazine. Comete horoscope application UK Online Interactive TV Mail on Liberate platform. SMS TV on Canal Satellite. Note virtual keyboard. C Dans L’air, viewers pose questions via SMS. Walking With Beasts. BBC interactive documentary. Walking With Beasts. BBC interactive documentary. Discovery Shark Weekend interactive documentary. Sky News Active. Note voting and eight video streams. MTV Hits. Viewers can place sticker on screen. BBC Wimbledon 2001 BBC World Cup soccer 2002. BBC World Cup 2002 BBC Winter Olympics 2002 F1 Digital+ on Sky. Driver Stats.

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Figure 4.20 Figure 4.21 Figure 4.22 Figure 4.23 Figure 4.24 Figure 4.25 Figure 4.26 Figure 4.27 Figure 4.28 Figure 4.29 Figure 4.30 Figure 4.30b Figure 4.31 Figure 4.32 Figure 4.33 Figure 4.34 Figure 4.35 Figure 4.36 Figure 4.37 Figure 4.38 Figure 4.39 Figure 5.1 Figure 5.2 Figure 5.3 Figure 5.4

Sky Sports Active. Player Cam. Voting on Sky News. Big Brother 2001 Discovery Channel’s Mastermind. ROFL Interactive consumer quiz show. Banzai Games top Forrester Research 2001 BBC Cbeebies game. David Beckham’s Soccer International Challenge on Sky Active. Football betting on Sky. ITV Gambling Revenues in Europe. Source Datamonitor 2001 Sky Bet Vegas – Juicy Jackpot. Pizza Hut Interactive MasterCard iTV trial. Virgin Mobile Interactive survey & competition Pampers iTV forum for mothers. Panasonic Interactive Advertisement DAL entry point. Panasonic Interactive Advertisement DAL structure. UEC VR 800 Personal Video Recorder (PVR) TiVo Series2 DVR US Video On Demand Revenues. Source: Forrester 2001. Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP. 1st generation Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP.4th generation. Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP. 7th generation. Generation loss of DVCPRO 50, Betacam SP, and Digital Betacam 7th generation.

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CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION – (2 pages)
(of six chapters)

DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia Swinburne University of Technology

© 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Introduction

Today the international broadcasting community is on the verge of a revolution in television content creation and transmission, brought about by a range of stunning digital technologies. Digital television, High Definition Television, 24p High Definition production, as well as Interactive TV are all technologies that will have far reaching consequences for the television industry, affecting program producers, broadcasting entities, advertisers, electronics manufacturers, as well as television viewers. It is a technological environment complicated by legacy issues, competing acquisition and transmission formats, revolutionary new methods of content creation and delivery, as well as a whole host of emerging content consumption structures that threaten the established order of television communication. The situation is further complicated by differing approaches to digital television implementation in different parts of the world, with Europe and the United States charting their own digital directions, developing their own niches of expertise, while also exposing themselves to a range of unique creative and commercial risks. Surrounded by rapid technological change, untried business models, and uncertain viewer expectations, countries such as Australia attempt to navigate their own course in what is fundamentally uncharted territory. It is also an environment that is politically charged, with a range of media interests, both established and aspiring broadcasters, staking out their territory in the early days of the digital television landscape. It is within these difficult technological, commercial, and political parameters that content program creators must now operate creating content for today as well as for tomorrow.

1.2

Scope

While there are a range of existing and emerging digital video applications on other platforms, such as Internet video and DVD package media, the scope of the paper is primarily limited to broadcast quality television, including terrestrial, cable and satellite. DVD, although of broadcast quality, is not a broadcast medium, while television content on the Internet is neither broadcast quality, nor has it been perfected as a mass television delivery format. It is not the intention of the author to delve into the technical intricacies of the cable and satellite systems, as they are only included within this paper on the basis that have become surrogate terrestrial broadcasting platforms, especially in the United States and Europe. Moreover, the focus of the paper is on how the disparate digital television technologies impact on content creation and delivery; discussion of technology is limited to providing the reader with sufficient information to follow the overall content of the paper.

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1.3 Overview Chapter Two of the paper will provide readers with a basic understanding of both analogue and digital television technology, including a discussion of aspect ratios, bandwidth, scanning modes and the various competing international transmission formats. This chapter will also provide the reader with a brief overview of the potential features that digital television affords, though limited to standard definition transmission. Chapter Three will build on the knowledge gathered in chapter 2, introducing the reader to High Definition Television broadcasting, detailing its underlying technology, how it differs from standard definition television, as well as the differing HDTV transmission formats. This chapter will also investigate the latest developments in HDTV display technology, the movement to a mass HDTV consumer market, while addressing viewer choice and expectation. Further discussion will focus on the opposition to HDTV and its implementation in various broadcasting markets. The chapter will conclude with an overview the new high definition acquisition formats. Chapter Four will first seek to define Interactive Television, before providing a detailed exploration of the various Interactive Television applications currently in the marketplace. This exploration will also seek to evaluate the relative success of these applications, providing an insight into viewer expectations, as well as viable business models. The chapter will also include a discussion of Australia’s controversial Datacasting legislation. Chapter Five provides content producers with an overview of the various film and video acquisitions formats that they are likely to confront during the transition to digital television, highlighting the need to protect content assets from technological obsolescence.

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CHAPTER 2 – DIGITAL TELEVISION – (19 pages)
(of six chapters)

DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia Swinburne University of Technology

© 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

CHAPTER TWO DIGITAL TELEVISION

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CHAPTER 2: DIGITAL TELEVISION
2.1 Introduction to Television Transmission Formats

International terrestrial broadcasting standards are currently in a state of transition as many countries begin the painstaking move to digital television broadcasting (DTV). Unfortunately, the opportunity to overcome the transmission incompatibilities of analogue broadcasting has to a large extent been squandered with a new set of competing standards. As a consequence, the international television sector will not only have to reconcile the previous three analogue formats of PAL, SECAM, and NTSC, but an additional three digital transmission formats. This state of affairs is further complicated by the necessity of ‘simulcasting’, which entails the broadcasting of both analogue and digital signals of the same programs, simultaneously. Governments around the world have adopted this approach as the safest transition route from analogue to digital, allowing consumers to make the transition over a period of years, and thus ensuring viewers are not disadvantaged in the process. As this transition period is likely to continue over a number of years, coupled with the fact that most nations have yet to even consider the move to DTV, the old analogue transmission formats will remain relevant for some years to come. Moreover, 50 years of analogue television will live on in content archives indefinitely, unless significant expense is incurred to transfer this analogue material to digital. For these reasons, and to assist in understanding DTV, it is necessary to briefly cover the various analogue transmission formats currently used around the globe.

2.2

Analogue Terrestrial Broadcast Standards

Essentially there are three main terrestrial analogue broadcast formats in the world, all of which are more or less incompatible with one another. While the European PAL and SECAM are somewhat compatible – in that they have the same frame rate and line structure – the American NTSC has a completely different line/frame rate structure and is entirely incompatible. The difference in frame rates/line structure largely has its roots in the very early television sets, which used the mains power frequency to sync the field timing reference as each new image was received by the set. This resulted in field frequencies of 60Hz in countries with a 60Hz power frequency cycle (110 volts, 60Hz), and 50Hz in 220/240 volt countries. The 50Hz and 60Hz field frequencies spawned frame rates of 25 and 30 (29.97 to be exact) respectively.

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With a video bandwidth of 4.2MHz, the American NTSC (National Televisions Systems Committee) is capable of resolving 525 lines per frame, while the slightly higher 5.0 MHz video bandwidth of PAL (Phase Alternating Line) and SECAM (Sequential Couleur Avec Memoire) produces 625 lines per frame. Moreover, apart from the greater line resolution of PAL/SECAM, the colour processing characteristics of these two standards out performs NTSC in broadcast situations, resulting in higher quality images.

2.2.1

Aspect Ratios

However, the three competing formats do have a number of factors in common, the first of which is a 4:3 picture aspect ratio, or the ratio of the width to the height. In this case, the picture is one unit wider than it is square. This aspect ratio was not arbitrarily chosen at the onset of television, but was rather a deliberate decision to approximately match the aspect ratio of most 35mm theatrical films shot in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Once the popularity of television began to erode the economic viability of cinema, film producers began shooting their films in wider, more panoramic aspect ratios in an attempt to attract people back to cinemas.

2.2.2

Bandwidth

The second characteristic that these standards have in common is an affinity of bandwidth, and lots of it. A continuous wave signal, analogue terrestrial broadcast consumes close to the entire allocated television broadcast bandwidth, which is usually separated into an equal number of channels. In Australia the television bandwidth channel is 7 MHz wide, while it is 8 MHz in Europe and 6 MHz in the United States. In other words, each television station has only enough bandwidth to broadcast one analogue signal. Until the advent of digital, there has been no way around this bandwidth squeeze. Moreover, each of the standards is locked in; that is, there is only one resolution capable of being transmitted, received and displayed on the set.

2.2.3

Interlacing

The final factor that these analogue standards have in common is that they all employ interlaced scanning. Interlaced scanning is a form of analogue compression, designed to present the eye with 50/60 frames per second, although each frame (field) contains only half the information of a full frame. Interlacing works by scanning every odd line on the screen, followed by every even line in the second scan. Reducing bandwidth, this form of scanning enabled earlier television sets to adequately display the images as they entered the receiver. However, according to Dr. William Glenn of the Florida Atlantic University Imaging Systems Laboratory, image flicker, especially on larger screens, is a major drawback of interlace scanning, resulting a reduction in perceived picture resolution (qtd in “Birkmaier”, 1999, part 7).

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Progressive scanning is a newer form of scanning that has been adopted by the computer industry, and is now emerging in digital television standards. Instead of showing half of the image over two fields, progressive scanning displays every line in one frame, increasing resolution, reducing flicker, but also increasing bandwidth – which is less of a problem with digital compression systems. Glenn states that “….progressive scan does not have interline flicker, a visible line structure, or line crawl. Consequently, the vertical resolution is limited only by the frame sampling structure.” (Ibid.) This has led some to claim that the higher line structure interlaced formats, such as 1080i, actually have inferior perceived resolution than the lower line structure progressive scanned formats, such as 720p. However, it is important to recognise that 1080i has twice the pixel resolution of 720p, resulting in greater spatial resolution when the picture is still or contains little motion. All things being equal, it can be said that a progressive scan image has higher resolution than an interlaced image. However, for this to be true, a progressive format would need to support an equal line structure to 1080i, as well as an equal temporal rate of 50/60 frames per second. At present, such a bandwidth hungry format is not supported. While the interlace versus progressive scanning issue is irrelevant for analogue transmission formats, it becomes important with digital television formats, which include both interlaced and progressive scan modes.

2.3

Digital Television Transmission Standards

The concept of digital television is really a paradigm shift in broadcasting, a radical departure from the analogue world of acquisition and delivery, where the entire chain of creation, transmission and reception was completely locked to the prevailing broadcast standard, be that PAL, SECAM or NTSC. This meant a fixed frame rate (25 or 30 frames per second), fixed line resolution (625/525) and fixed bandwidth. In short, a robust, but highly inflexible, high bandwidth consuming set of standards. PAL, SECAM and NTSC acquisition and post-production equipment will be replaced by digital standards that are internationally compatible. While there are three competing transmission standards for digital television – DVB, ATSC and ISDB – television program makers will for the first time share a set of common acquisition and post production digital formats, enabling seamless program interchange and consigning the absurd program incompatibility problems of the analogue systems to history. The flexibility of digital transmission lies in the fact that its MPEG-2 compression standard is a series of binary digits, transmitted as a bit stream to television receivers, which in turn convert the compressed digital information to images and sound. Employing MPEG-2 compression allows a substantial reduction in bandwidth, achieved by only transmitting the data necessary to show a change in the picture, while discarding redundant information (DCITA, 2000). While the 7 MHz pipe, or bandwidth spectrum, currently allocated to analogue transmission in Australia can only carry a single standard definition television (SDTV) program, the same 7 MHz spectrum ultilising digital transmission is capable of broadcasting “…up to six services using SDTV, or as many as ten services with lesser definition formatting.” (Ibid.) What this means is that broadcasters are presented with the

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potential to utilise their allocated spectrum in a far more flexible way, either choosing to broadcast one ultra high resolution picture (HDTV), a number of standard definition programs simultaneously, datacast, or mixture of all of the above. The only restriction is that they must not exceed the maximum 7MHz pipe, which equates to a total data rate of about 20 Mbits per second. Unlike the analogue transmission standards, which were of a fixed bandwidth, the data rate of individual programs within the 20 Mbps pipe will vary according to the nature of the program. For example, standard definition drama or ‘talking heads’ may utilise 4 to 5 Mbps of data, while fast moving sports may consume as much as 10 Mbps of data (Ibid.). This would indicate that in this case, the broadcaster must choose between four drama/talking heads programs, or two fast moving sports programs. Alternatively, the broadcaster may elect to broadcast two drama programs, one in HDTV and one in SDTV. Again, it is important to realise that the data rate of each program will depend on the degree to which its pictures change from one frame to the next, and the format resolution. Moreover, information, e-commerce applications and web pages may also be ‘datacast’ at 1 to 2 Mbps. MPEG-2’s ability to vary the bit rate is not dissimilar to video on the World Wide Web, where streaming video can be accessed at a number of different data rates, based on the user’s optimum modem speed. Once the broadcaster has decided on how to best utilise its bandwidth at any given time, the various MPEG-2 program streams are multiplexed into one bit stream for transmission on a single frequency, where they are ‘unpacked’ by the television receiver or set-top box. While acquisition and program creation will now be internationally compatible, broadcast transmission and television reception will still be incompatible, based on either European DVB, American ATSC, or the Japanese ISDB.

2.4

DVB, ATSC and ISDB

After extensive testing by the Australian Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Selection Panel in 1997, the Australian Government accepted its recommendation that the European DVB-T digital transmission standard be adopted for Australian digital broadcasting. DVB is a family of compatible broadcasting standards dedicated to terrestrial, cable and satellite digital transmissions. It consists of DVB-T for terrestrial broadcasts, DVB-S for satellite broadcasts, and DVB-C for cable transmissions (DVB, 1998). Both the European DVB and the American ATSC use the standard MPEG-2 data container to carry all video, audio and multimedia data. At the time, the Australian version of DVB-T was slightly different, as it supported both the internationally accepted MPEG Audio standard, as well as the American Dolby Digital AC-3 surround sound specification. Moreover, the Australian DVB-T specification also supported High Definition Television transmission. While the DVB and ATSC systems both support a set of common SDTV and HDTV formats, where they purportedly differ is in their signal robustness, which is largely a function of the frequency modulation used within each system. DVB employs COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex) modulation, a unique method for constructing single frequency networks, which essentially permits the transmission of

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signals on the same frequency, even if adjacent transmitters are broadcasting the same signals. Conversely, the American ATSC system employs 8-VSB modulation, a system that requires adjacent transmitters to broadcast on another frequency. As a consequence, COFDM modulation results in greater frequency efficiency, while also resisting multipath interference, or ghosting, which is often problematic for non-single frequency networks. The ability to tolerate multipath transmission is also critical to successful mobile television reception, such as moving cars, buses and other craft. According to tests conducted by the DVB organisation, mobile reception has been successfully received at speeds of up to 275 km/h on highways, as well as in moving trams through dense city centres (Ibid.). According to the DVB organisation,

“…with 8-VSB (ATSC) the only possible service is fixed reception and recent tests in the USA have shown that it won’t even replicate the existing NTSC service….The inability to handle multipath make 8-VSB difficult to use in the portable environment. Fixed portable is a possibility if the correct spot is found where everything works. However, walking portable is not possible. DVB-T on the other hand has already been shown to work in this situation…..DVB-T is already being used in Singapore for the delivery of Television to buses.” (DVB, ?)

With wireless mobile television reception a possible gold mine for broadcasters, given that Internet, cable and satellite technologies face great challenges in this arena, selecting a transmission standard conducive to mobile reception is of paramount importance. Many independent comparative tests have also found the DVB-T system to be superior. John Crane, the TEN Network Engineer for Digital Development, was on the FACTS evaluation panel when the standards were tested in 1997, he states;

“…When we were testing the American ATSC system against DVB, we found that ATSC had a better impulse noise rejection but the reflection and multipath rejection was superior in DVB…..We looked at mobile reception, how it worked in a car ignition noise environment, how it worked with ghosts and what formats were available within it…..Overall it was plain that the choice should be DVB as it was superior.” (Crane, 2002).

Even in the United States, many industry experts are calling for the 8-VSB modulation to be replaced with COFDM, especially after tests by Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore found that 8-VSB was not only inferior to COFDM, but was even inferior to NTSC (Birkmaier, 1999). So why did the ATSC go down the 8-VSB route? Essentially because the ATSC system was optimised for HDTV and fixed receivers with directional outdoor antennas. At the time, little thought was given to the impending wireless world of portable communications and data delivery. While many American broadcasters would like to expand their services to wireless devices, they will find opposition to COFDM in some powerful American component manufacturers committed to their own systems. It was these

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large broadcast equipment manufacturers that developed the ATSC standard, a collection of companies known as the digital television Grand Alliance. It is unlikely that they, or the US Government, is prepared to concede defeat to the Europeans – at stake is a billion dollar digital transmission/receiver manufacturing industry. This is compounded by US Congress suspicions that the US broadcasters desire a move to COFDM in order to “…compete with the telecommunications companies in the lucrative new markets for wireless data services. It is clear that this is not a franchise that the politicians are going to give to the broadcasters.” (Birkmaier, 2000) While the US sticks doggedly to their 8-VSB ATSC transmission standard, DVB-T is quietly becoming the global transmission standard. In the light of Australia’s comparative test of DVB-T and ATSC, many countries that had committed, or considered the American standard, conducted their own comparative tests to arrive at the same conclusions. The most recent of these is Taiwan, which switched from ATSC to DVB-T in 2001. Today, only the US, Canada and Korea have stood by the ATSC standard, while Europe, Australia, South America, South East Asia, India and China have adopted, or are likely to adopt, the DVB-T (DVB, 2002). With these huge markets adopting DVB-T, the enormous economies of scale will see digital receivers, set-top boxes and HDTV receivers in the DVB-T format substantially fall in cost once production reaches critical mass. While the Europeans and Americans battle it out, the Japanese have developed their own system for digital television, called ISDB (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting). Essentially ISDB is a hybrid of both DVB and ATSC, an attempt to incorporate the strengths of both systems. However, while the Japanese format has tested equal to, or slightly better than DVB-T, it is unlikely to be adopted outside of Japan, given the lack of economies of scale in producing the necessary transmission/receiver equipment.

[Update 5/5/03. As the world’s largest manufacturer of television sets, China has been the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by representatives of both the ATSC and DVB systems. While China has adopted DVB-S for satellite transmissions, and is likely to adopt DVB-C for cable, the Americans and Europeans were surprised by the 2001 announcement that China would develop its own independent terrestrial DTV standard. According to the People’s Daily Online, the Chinese DTV terrestrial standard would borrow heavily from telecommunication schemes to create a system capable of “….not only standard and high definition TV broadcasting but also for future data services and even cellular phone applications (People’s Daily, 2003)”. According to the article, the Chinese decision was motivated by concerns about current DTV transmission problems, especially 8-VSB modulated ATSC, as well as a desire to seize an opportunity to create their own system (Ibid.) With patent rights and royalties running as high as $20 per television set, China is not the only country considering developing their own DTV-T standard. Brazil, Argentina, Chile and India are discussing the prospect of working with China to develop a ‘nonaligned’ DTV standard, uniquely created for the needs of the developing world. The hitherto superiority of DVB’s mobile performance was recently challenged by an ATSC mobile demonstration at the NAB 2003 conference. Utilizing Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 compression technology, it is now possible to broadcast ATSC to a range of

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mobile devices - televisions, PCs and other mobile devices – and at a bit rate two thirds less than that of MPEG-2. Such a remarkably reduced bit rate would make it possible to transmit HDTV at under 5Mbps and SDTV at under 1.5 Mbps. Windows Media 9’s IP datacasting of broadcast television can be employed within the MPEG-2 structures of DTV, including both ATSC and DVB systems, and a number of set-top box manufacturers have already agreed to support Windows Media 9. A number of cable TV companies have committed to employing WM9 to deliver video content, while the technology can also be employed to deliver content via broadband, satellite, DVD and other physical media. As evidenced by Windows Media 9, HDTV may not remain bandwidth hungry. ]

2.5

The Viewing Experience of Digital Television

Apart from freeing up valuable frequency spectrum, which can be auctioned off by governments to provide other services, the move to digital television is mainly concerned with improving the viewing experience of television, a medium largely unaltered since the adoption of colour in the early 1970’s. In this section, the author will briefly outline some of the features of the digital television viewing experience, along with accompanying issues that potentially impact on DTV content creation.

2.5.1

Improved Imagery

It is important to recognise that digital television is not necessarily High Definition television,

in fact, HDTV has only been adopted in the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. In Europe, where DTV is the most widespread, HDTV has not been adopted at all. Therefore, is it correct to view HDTV as a subset of DTV, a set of higher resolutions that require a commitment from regulators, broadcasters and set manufacturers before it can be transmitted. As a result, digital television usually expresses itself in the standard definition mode (SDTV), with a picture quality equivalent to the 625 (575 active) analogue PAL signal currently broadcast in Australia and Europe. In the United States, it will be commensurate with the 525 (480 active) lines of the NTSC signal. However, despite possessing the same line resolution of analogue television, digital SDTV is capable of producing better quality images in the television receiver. This is explained by the very nature of the digital signal itself. Unlike continuous wave analogue signals, which are reproduced by the television receiver unfaithfully, suffering from interference, ghosting and diminishing signal strength, digital signals are either ‘on’ or ‘off’ – either reproducing an exact copy in the receiver, or not producing an image at all. The result is dramatically clearer pictures for television receivers in built up areas or uneven terrain. This becomes even more important for mobile wireless devices.

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2.5.2

Widescreen Television

Widescreen television gained its impetus from the cinema, where film-makers in the 1950’s abandoned the 4:3 aspect ratio of analogue television in an attempt to distinguish the cinema from the television. It is widely accepted that a widescreen aspect ratio results in a greater field of view, and which, when close to the audience, allows the viewer to feel more immersed in the action. The advent of digital television was seen as opportunity to spurn the more box like aspect ratio of the first 50 years of television, for a more cinematic widecreen aspect ratio. The new internationally accepted aspect ratio for television is 16:9, translated into a picture width that is 16 units wide for every 9 units high. In cinematic terms, 16:9 is called 1.78:1, and with most feature films being shot in 1.85:1, a 1.78:1 (16:9) aspect ratio for DTV is seen as a fairly close match. As a consequence, most feature films can be broadcast on DTV with minimal cropping of the original image, which in the traditional 4:3 analogue television picture could be as much as two thirds of the entire picture.

Figure 2.1: 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios

With a 4:3 analogue aspect ratio, broadcasters and filmmakers have lived with a painful choice when it came to television transmission of movies. The purest approach, common in Europe, and in Australia on SBS, is to ‘letterbox’ the image by placing black masking at the top and bottom of the screen. However, while this approach allowed viewers to see the movie in its intended aspect ratio, it severely reduced the image area on the screen, a problem acerbated by small television screens. The other approach, common in the United States and on Australian commercial stations, is to employ a technique known as pan and scan. This method essentially zooms in on the movie to display a full 4:3 aspect ratio, resulting in significant image loss at the sides of the original film. To retain the integrity of the story, or even to avoid losing the characters off the screen, decisions are made about what is the most important part of the screen, and the picture is panned accordingly. For instance, a character may walk from the left side of the frame, which is out of shot on the 4:3 aspect ratio, right across the screen to disappear on the other side. In this case, the picture would be panned as the character moved from one side to the other, and while this

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would keep them in shot, it is a less than satisfactory way of maintaining the director’s original cinematic vision. However, while the new 16:9 aspect ratio will become the standard for program creation and television broadcast the world over, broadcasters will now live with the 4:3 legacy, given that most non-cinema television programs have been shot and edited in the old 4:3 format. This will necessitate the reverse of the previous problem, requiring broadcasters to either display 4:3 content in black side bars known as ‘pillarboxes’, or artificially create a 16:9 image by zooming or stretching the 4:3 image. Obviously, once widescreen content becomes the rule, any programs shot in 4:3 and broadcast in pillarboxes, or stretched, will be less appealing to audiences. It is for this reason that producers with foresight have for some years shot their 4:3 programs on film, ensuring that their expensive content would survive in a 16:9 world. With a wider image area, the move to the 16:9 aspect ratio will impact on production processes, in particular equipment, cameras, lighting, sets, editing, captioning, graphics and even stage movements. On a purely practical level, the wider screen area may reveal the edges of sets, lighting equipment, microphones and other cameras. Sets, floor plans, and deeply ingrained production habits will have to be adapted to a 16:9 world. And while the widescreen image may be ideal for most sports, allowing more of the field to be included within shot, some sports will find 16:9 somewhat awkward, as Randall Paris Dark acknowledges in his paper titled, ‘Framing for Two Worlds’,

“However, with every advantage there are also limitations. Think tennis. The primary camera position is behind the tennis player, where the 4:3 frame works perfectly. The 16:9 frame fights that angle, there is too much air on each side of the court from that camera position. Pan and scan from the end camera would be next to impossible. With a few sports, new camera positions will have to be experimented with and we will have to find new and compelling ways of covering sporting events.” (qtd in “Birkmaier and Pescatore”, 2000, chapter 4)

However, adapting to the 16:9 aspect ratio is further complicated by need to ensure that images also convey meaning on legacy 4:3 ratio televisions. Jane Eakin, Promotions Producer at the TEN Network explains the dilemma,

“There are two issues that we face almost daily. The first is how to create attractive widescreen images that have their essential message in the 4:3 ‘centre cut’ area. The other is to convert material that is widescreen and hasn’t been shot with a ‘protected’ 4:3 area and make it work for both formats.” (Eakin, 2001)

While broadcasters such as the BBC have somewhat avoided this dilemma by broadcasting in the compromise 14:9 aspect ratio, necessitating only marginal letterboxing, American and most Australian broadcasters are reluctant to go down the unpopular letterbox path,

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even in 14:9. This has given rise to the doctrine of the ‘4:3 protect mode’, creating content that works in both 4:3 and 16:9. However, this is proving problematic. Consider for example the problem posed by edit timing, a critical factor in many programs where edits are performed as characters enter and leave frames. Should an edit take place when the character enters the 16:9 frame, or the 4:3 frame? Cutting on the 16:9 frame will mean 4:3 viewers will not see the character enter the frame, while cutting on 4:3 will present the character’s entrance too early for 16:9 viewers. A significant problem for comedic and action timing (Dark, qtd in “Birkmaier and Pescatore”, 2000, chapter 4). Similar problems are encountered with logos and animated graphics, should they be optimised for 4:3, at risk of looking awkward and poorly timed in 16:9? While broadcasters attempt to convince content makers to ‘shoot and protect’ for 4:3, the BBC decision to broadcast a letterboxed 14:9 seems sensible. Moreover, while all new production in Australia is commissioned in 16:9, and the old 4:3 aspect ratio will die when the analogue signal is switched off in 2008, it is disturbing that 4:3 is still one of the available formats within the American DTV standard. Considering that the US is an important program export market, Australian and European producers will still have to contend with the 4:3 demon for some time to come. A final word on 16:9 acquisition. Shooting 16:9 can be acquired a number of ways, though some methods should be avoided. 16:9 can be acquired directly through a 16:9 acquisition format, such as film, HDCAM or some of the switchable digital formats. In the case of the switchable format cameras, it is important to use a camera that possess a 16:9 CCD chip, which simply produces 4:3 by placing pillarboxes on the sides. The most inappropriate are cameras that ‘fake’ 16:9 by stretching or letterboxing the 4:3 chip. This results in a diminished line resolution of only 432 actives lines instead of 576 in 625 PAL (Wilt, 2002). The same poor result is reached by soft matting 16:9 on a 4:3 image during post production. Given that full 576 line PAL is unlikely to survive the transition to HDTV, an even more degraded version of S-VHS like 432 lines should be avoided. Despite the problems inherent in the transition to widescreen television, both Europe and Australia are pushing ahead with 16:9 transmission. The UK, the first country in the world to begin DTV, is already completely committed to widescreen, in fact, to the extent that it is virtually impossible to purchase a 4:3 television set. The remainder of Europe is moving to 16:9, though more slowly. In Australia, approximately 50% of primetime evening programming is widescreen, as is all new programming, most local news and sports coverage, along with first run movies. Moreover, sales of widescreen television sets are beginning to take off in Australia, with sales increasing 700% from 2001 to 2002, at an average cost of $1600 (DBA, 2002). And despite the inclusion of the 4:3 ratio in the American DTV standard, all the other formats in standard, including HDTV, are 16:9 formats. Therefore, all American content creation will shift to 16:9 production over the long term.

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2.5.3

Sound

Digital television will bring with it dramatically improved audio quality, based on two internationally recognised audio encoding systems. Initially, the European DVB system was based on MPEG 1, Layer II (stereo), while the American ATSC system was based on the more sophisticated surround sound Dolby Digital AC-3. DVB’s adoption of MPEG 1, Layer II audio was based on its widespread use within radio broadcasting, DVD, consumer electronics equipment, multimedia and cable and satellite broadcasting. In short, it is a robust system that has widespread industry and consumer acceptance. However, the Americans, with their focus on the cinema quality HDTV experience, pushed the envelope to adopt Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, a system based on cinema quality sound. With surround sound, six separate channels of audio are decoded by the receiver and sent to six different speakers, this includes a Front speaker, Left and Right Front speakers, Left and Right Rear speakers, and a Subwoofer. Combined with high definition resolution images, true surround sound makes for a powerful viewing experience. As a consequence of Australia’s embrace of HDTV and Dolby Digital, AC-3 was subsequently accepted within the DVB international standard. Australian broadcasters have the choice of broadcasting in MPEG 1, Layer II stereo or Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The likely outcome is for broadcasters to transmit movies and other high quality presentations in surround sound, while transmitting MPEG Audio for other less cinematic programs. It should be noted that it is also possible to broadcast surround sound within the MPEG specification, known as Dolby ProLogic, however, this standard has failed to gain widespread acceptance. Essentially broadcasters have a choice of three audio formats, MPEG stereo, MPEG with Dolby ProLogic surround sound, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3 surround sound.

2.5.4

Multiview

Not to be confused with ‘multi-channeling’, multiview is essentially a number of different camera angles, multiplexed and broadcast as separate channels within a given broadcaster’s 7 MHz spectrum. It is sporting events that lend themselves ideally to this kind of digital broadcasting, allowing the viewer to select different camera angles via the remote control, similar to flicking between ordinary channels. To view the multiple camera angles within a single screen requires a receiver with PIP (Picture in Picture) capability. Multiview is destined to be a popular viewer option, providing that broadcasters are willing to offer the necessary bandwidth required by the additional camera angle channels, although there is the possibility of offering secondary camera views at lower than SDTV resolutions. Essentially, broadcasters will choose whether to broadcast one HDTV signal of a sporting event, or multiple lower resolution camera angles, or even completely different content on any spare bandwidth. The final question is whether, beyond the novelty factor, viewers actually want to select their own camera views, considering that professional directors have performed this function since the beginning of television. Moreover, it is entirely possible that audiences may respond more enthusiastically to single stream HDTV content.

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A number of sporting events are already being multiviewed, including the 2001 FAI 1000 Bathurst, the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race [Crane, 2001).

2.5.5

Closed Captioning

To assist the hearing impaired, closed captioning is the provision of ‘on screen’ captions or subtitles. According to Australian Government legislation, broadcasters must, as far as practicable, provide captions for programs transmitted during primetime hours (6pm – 10:30pm). The same applies for television news and current affairs broadcast outside those times. In the UK, the principal commercial networks are expected to increase captioned programming to 80% by 2004, while the US has adopted a gradual phase in of 5 hours a day in 2002, 10 hours in 2003, 15 hours in 2004, and 20 hours in 2006 (DCITA review, 2000). While governments around the world seek to improve the viewing experience for the hearing impaired, broadcasters, already buckling under the cost of the digital transition, are seeking captioning exemptions. Among others, Prime Television has claimed the cost of captioning its nine local news bulletins to be approximately $700,000 in equipment, followed by $800,000 per annum in salary costs (Ibid.). The costs are greater for live unscripted programs, such as sporting events. The ABC claims a cost of $942 per television hour of stenocaptioning services (Ibid.).

2.5.6

Multi-channeling

Multi-channeling is the broadcasting of more than one separate television program within the 7 MHz transmission spectrum. As a broadcaster has 19.35 Mbps in which to broadcast ‘data’, it is theoretically possible for one broadcaster to transmit four or five entirely separate television programs simultaneously. While this type of multi-channeling dominates digital television in the United Kingdom and Europe, and is permitted in the US, although the FCC is leaning heavily on broadcasters to provide HDTV, it was expressly forbidden under Australia’s digital broadcasting legislation until the advent of the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television and Datacasting) Act 2000 (Broadcasting Services Act, 1992/2000).

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Figure 2.2: Transmission options within total bandwidth

[Update 5/5/03. Note: While the total data rate of digital television in Australia is often defined as 19.35 Mbps (American ATSC bit rate is19.39), the DVB system allows for variations in the total bit rate, a trade off in bit rate versus signal robustness. While the SEVEN Network and SBS are transmitting, or intend to transmit, at 19.35 Mbps, the NINE and TEN Networks, along with the ABC, have opted for a total data rate of 23Mbps. The higher data rate will result in slightly reduced signal coverage.]

This amendment allows the national broadcasters, government owned SBS and ABC, to multi-channel certain types of programs, while still barring the commercial free to air (FTA) networks from doing so. The ABC and SBS successfully argued that multichanneling would assist them in meeting their responsibilities to the Australian public, as set out in their respective charters. In the case of the much larger ABC, this included provisions to, “…provide an information stream and a learning stream of programming….The information stream could include live coverage of events, repeats of current affairs programs, interviews and datacasting. The learning stream could include accredited educational courses and documentaries of an educational nature.” (qtd in “DCITA Review National Broadcaster”, 1999)

The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), the body representing Pay TV, argued that multi-channeling should not be permitted on any FTA stations, on the grounds that, “Pay TV currently provides a diversity and depth of entertainment and information services…..the types of programming which the national broadcasters are proposing to offer are already provided by subscription television.” (Richards, 1999). Closer analysis would suggest that the Pay TV industry is less concerned

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about actual competition from the national broadcasters, and more concerned about the prospect of future multi-channeling by the commercial FTA’s. Predictably, the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) argued that any provision for the national broadcasters to multi-channel should be limited to programs that are not provided by the commercial broadcasters, thus reducing competition (Branigan, 1999). In the end, the final Digital Amendment Bill reflected that viewpoint, allowing the ABC and SBS to multi-channel, but only educational, regional news and current affairs, children’s programming, as well as arts and sciences.

2.6

Implications of Multi-channeling

While the current debate in Australia about the merits of multi-channeling is couched in terms of ‘viewer choice’ and ‘viewer control’, it is also possible to interpret it as a struggle between choice and fragmentation on one side; quality and consolidation on the other. Both sides of the equation have their supporters, usually based on the needs of their own business objectives. It is also a debate overshadowed by the issue of broadcast liberalisation, specifically the entry of a number of new players into Australia’s television broadcasting space. These include a range of non-television media interests, from leading newspaper publishers, Fairfax and News Limited, to telecommunications and Internet companies, all of which have demonstrated an interest in securing television broadcast spectrum. As far as these interests are concerned, multi-channel enabled ‘viewer choice’ can also be seen as a Trojan Horse in dismantling the dominance of Australia’s three commercial free to air broadcasters. Interestingly, one of these broadcasters, the SEVEN Network, is now also arguing for multi-channel broadcasting, presumably on the grounds that multiple sports programming will generate additional revenue.

2.6.1

Viewer Fragmentation

It is here that it is necessary to examine whether the kind of market fragmentation that multi-channeling engenders, constitutes a viable business model for commercial broadcasters, as well as their advertisers. Although it may seem contrary to its own interests, FACTS has continued to oppose the adoption of multi-channeling on the commercial FTA’s, based largely on the viewpoint that it is an unproven business model. FACTS made the following salient points,

“The public interest assessment should look to quality of current services as well as quantity of services available. FACTS research has indicated that consumers are more interested in better quality services, rather than more services per se.”

“In assessing the public benefits of providing more services to viewers, it is important to take into account the effect competing services may have on the quality of existing commercial services. If viewers are drawn to competing news services,

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for example, this will impact on revenue, and may lead to programming cuts which will affect the quality and local content of programming.” (Ibid.)

The reference here is not only to the potential appeal of HDTV programming, but also to the dangers of spreading content too thin, potentially resulting in more fragmented audiences and diminished advertising revenues. Some advertisers, however, refute the ‘fixed pie’ advertising revenue concept implicit in the FACTS statement, claiming that advertising spending will grow as advertisers find new ways to reach targeted consumers. In a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Broadcasting Inquiry, the Australian Association of National Advertisers argued that,

“[A]dvertisers will increasingly get more sophisticated in their targeting. In its crudest sense advertisers try to reach a particular audience and each product or service differs in relation to the sort of audience that they’re seeking to reach. … if that audience becomes fragmented … then that will enable advertisers to be more focused in how they find that audience. (trans., p. 1129)” (Productivity Commission, 2000)

The advertising body went on to argue that multi-channeling would enable advertisers to access more cost effective ways of reaching their target audience, a proposition supported by the Productivity Commission. The Commission did indeed accept the notion of fragmentation, but differed in its conclusion,

“Fragmentation will continue to occur regardless of the number of free to air commercial broadcasting services. But allowing commercial free to air television broadcasters to multi-channel (as recommended by this report) will allow them to target audiences better, and to draw some benefit from this fragmentation.” (Ibid.)

However, the Commission did concede that the threat of fragmentation was a greater threat to FTA broadcasters than other media, as they are primarily dependant on attracting a large, broad audience, stating that, “As other forms of media become more effective at targeting specific groups that advertisers wish to reach, free to air mass broadcasting could be become relatively less effective.” (Ibid.) This is a curious admission from the Productivity Commission, essentially an admission that the kind of fragmentation encouraged by multichanneling is in fact detrimental to the viability of commercial free to airs. However, in the interests of media deregulation, it is the Commission’s opinion that any risk to the FTA’s is worth taking. The FTA’s content that better quality pictures translate into better advertising opportunities for advertisers, an argument that is highlighted by the Commission’s own reference to a digital television paper presented by Balnaves and Varan, in which it was stated,

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“Advertisers, at least on premium accounts, have demonstrated that they are willing to pay to insure that their product reflects high production values. This is not only a result of their need to display the product and brand as clearly as possible, but is supported by strategic research demonstrating that high production values result in higher recall and purchase intent … Hence there is a strategic justification for higher production value despite marginal additional cost.” (qtd in “Productivity Commission, 2000, p. 191)

This would seem to support the viewpoint of FACTS, that higher production standards, in this case HDTV, will result in larger audiences, and hence better advertising reach. While it is evident that FACTS is certainly interested in protecting its market position, the author believes that the extreme high cost of operating a television station, along with exorbitant cost of producing high quality content, does in fact require a certain level of market consolidation. Good programming costs money, and somewhere along the line someone has to pay for it. The recent collapse of ITV Digital in the United Kingdom, due largely to the cost of supporting premium multi-channel sporting content, is salient example. It should also be noted that Australia’s FTA broadcasters have proven themselves over four decades, providing the nation with relatively high quality programming, and at a profit. It remains to be seen whether the collection of aspiring broadcasters can deliver over the long term, given that their business models are unproved. This is an issue that affects not only the broadcasting industry, but also Australia’s film and television industry, an industry dependent on a consistent and stable flow of capital funding. It is for this reason that the Screen Producers of Australia Association (SPAA), quite possibly the only neutral observer in this debate, questioned the viability of the national broadcasters multi-channeling without extra funding,

“While multi-channeling represents a useful extension to the services offered by the national broadcasters, it is imperative that the shift to multchanneling is adequately funded. Without a reasonable commitment to the costs involved in providing additional services, multi-channeling would be able to offer little that was interesting or be an effective extension of the national broadcaster’s role.” (Herd, 1999)

Perhaps the most appropriate method of evaluating the impact of multi-channeling on viewer fragmentation is to examine it in the field, namely the United Kingdom and Europe where such a broadcasting environment has been openly fostered. With a 30% digital television take up rate, the United Kingdom is often cited as proof of the viability of multichanneling (Mori, 2001). However, a rapid take up rate does not necessarily translate into a viable business model, as recent financial data indicates. Of the four main multi-channel networks operating in the UK, one has failed, while the remaining three continue to incur significant losses. Even British Sky Broadcasting, the largest multi-channel broadcaster with 5.7 million subscribers, in May 2002 announced a quarterly loss of 30.8 million pounds, the twelfth in succession (Financial Post, 2002). Moreover, the collapse of ITV Digital has rocked the foundations of Britain’s digital broadcasting industry, to the extent

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that CEO of Channel 4, and former BSkyB director of programming, David Elstein, recently declared Britain’s digital television “a disaster” and “a license to lose money” (Hodgson, 2002), also adding the following comment, “NTL is virtually broke. Sky has lost 1bn (pounds), ITV Digital has lost 1bn. If this is competition, then please bring back monopoly” (Ibid.). The fallout likely to set back Britain’s roll out of DTV and necessitate a re-evaluation of the business models unpinning the industry. Across the channel, DTV multi-channeling has also proved problematic, with the failure of Spain’s DTV multi-channel regime prompting the Spanish Government to abandon the conversion to digital. Even Austar, Australia’s leading digital satellite broadcaster, continues to incur significant losses, including a $682 million Australian dollar loss for the year 2001 (Fraser, 2002). Collectively, these poor results indicate a fundamental flaw in the business models of multi-channel broadcasting, indicating that content quality is perhaps more important than viewer choice.

[Update 5/5/03. Austar remains in financial trouble; $400 million in debt, its shares trading at about 25 cents, down from a high of $9.60 two years ago. In the U.K., cable company Telewest continues to struggle, recording a 2.2 billion pound loss for 2002, compared with a 1.9 billion pound loss in 2001. Debt now stands at 5.3 billion pounds (Daily Mail, 2003). The other embattled pay TV cable company, NTL, also continues to incur significant losses, recording an annual loss of 1.5 billion pounds in 2002 (Daily Mail, April 2004). BSkyB, with its 6.3 million subscribers in the UK, seems to have stemmed the string of losses to record its highest half yearly operating profit of 158 million pounds to December 31st 2002 (Swedlow, Feb, 2003). However, the company carries significant debt, incurred during the upgrade to digital. BSkyB penetration is partly attributable to the company’s strategy of giving away millions of 200 Pound digital set top boxes. The Economist magazine also attributed Sky’s success to obtaining exclusive premium content, such as live premiership football from free to air TV, as well as effective marketing and sales techniques, in particular, the bundling of premium channels to extract maximum dollar from the subscriber. As Tony Ball, BSkyB’s CEO expressed it, “You’ve got to be careful how much money you take off a subscriber. The trick is to know just how far to fleece consumers without losing them (Economist, 2003). After the collapse of ITV Digital, Britain re-launched digital terrestrial television in October 2002. Called Freeview, it is a free-to-air multi-channel network backed by the BBC, BSkyB and transmission company Castle Crown. While over 1.4 million households are already receiving Freeview, much of this early success is attributable to the existence of approximately 1 million former ITV Digital set-top boxes in TV households. It will be interesting to see how many more TV households are prepared to purchase a digital terrestrial set-top box. In fact, in April 2003, BARB Audience Research indicated that Freeview households were only watching the network 20% of the time, while the remaining 80% of viewing was spent on the UK’s five terrestrial analogue channels (Swedlow, April, 2003). However, given that Freeview is barely six months old, even a 20% viewing rate is promising.

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A 2001 study on subscriber churn by Nielsen Media indicated that viewers want more than simply extra channels, in fact, in cases where viewers had 100 channels at their disposal, they only watched about 16 of them (McMahon/Flanagan, 2001). This suggests that consumers value choice to a certain point, beyond which they value higher quality content or even interactive services. In January 2003, the Spanish Government asked electronic manufacturers and broadcasters to work together to resurrect the country’s failed DTT roll-out. The Government plans provide existing broadcasters with the 14 channels previously assigned to the failed Quiero DTT platform, with new digital terrestrial legislation expected soon. Interestingly, the Spanish Government has asked broadcasters to offer “specific programming different from that in analogue” (DTV Group, 2003). This would seem to suggest that standard multichannel programming is less than appealing to Spanish audiences. ]

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CHAPTER 4 – INTERACTIVE TELEVISION – (48 pages)
(of six chapters)

DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia Swinburne University of Technology

© 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

CHAPTER FOUR INTERACTIVE TELEVISION

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CHAPTER 4: INTERACTIVE TELEVISION
4.1 Defining Interactive Television

Interactive Television, or iTV, has come to represent a stunning array of ‘interactive’ television applications, from program enhancements, t-commerce and messaging, to videoon-demand, interactive games and datacasting. It is a technology in its infancy, incomplete, lacking in universal standards, and above all, evolving at an astonishing pace. For these reasons, defining iTV is both cumbersome and sometimes contentious. Jerry Whitaker (2001), in his book Interactive Television Demystified, defined iTV as “…anything that lets a consumer engage in action with the system using a remote control and keyboard to access new and advanced services.” (p.1). However, these ‘new and advanced services’ are not defined. Others have engaged in far more complex definitions, seeking to break it down into appropriate categories. In The Concept of Interactivity, J.F. Jensen (1999) wrote that interactivity is “… a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user exert an influence on the content and/or form of the mediated communication” (qtd. in “Van Tassel” p. 157). This was further broken down into four forms of interactivity, including: • • • •

Transmissional interactivity: one-way stream of continuous information. Consultational interactivity: two-way viewer choice, from existing selection. Conversational interactivity: two-way interaction between viewers, i.e. chat. Registrational interactivity: two-way system that both accepts and responds to viewer input.

Another writer, Richard Cross (2000), adopts a far simpler definition, delineating two main types of iTV: Messaging applications and Interactive applications. These, according to Richard Cross, are themselves separated to produce four main types of iTV, which are: •

One Way Messaging: viewers receive broadcaster messages in the form of program promotions, target advertising promotions, viewer language choice, junk mail and weather updates. Two Way Messaging: viewers have minimal interaction with broadcaster, providing answers to simple questions, which are stored locally and transmitted to broadcaster whenever the viewer is next online. Includes polling, market research, lotteries, quizzes or prompts for additional information from advertisements.

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One Way Interactive: allows for a greater degree of personalisation, without the need for a constantly open ‘back channel’. Smart card in set-top box presents transmitted content according to user’s profile. Includes personalised information services, tickers, information about favourite sports and actors, games on set-top box, and ‘play along’ interactive games, such as broadcast quiz shows. Two Way Interactive: Full two way online interactivity, requiring a constantly open back channel, especially for secure transactions. Includes banking, shopping and surfing the Web.

Digital television technologist, Craig Birkmaier (Miller?), invokes the Internet as an analogy for interactive television, “Interactive television is most easily understood as the convergence of Internet-like interactivity and traditional television programming and delivery technology.” [4] Birkmaier goes on to describe remote controlled channel surfing to be the most ‘crude’ form of interactivity, before turning his attention to a number of often used terms to describe interactive television. These include such terms as: •

Dual Screen applications: traditional video program content is delivered to television, while interactive content and back channel is delivered via a PC. After Teletext, which was one-way messaging, the lack of set-top boxes and a back channel forced many early iTV programs to adopt this approach, an example is the quiz show, ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, where viewers were able to participate in the quiz via a modem on their PC. Of course, this required viewers to have their PC in the same room as their television, and also ran the risk of loosing viewer eyeballs away from the main program – and their advertisers. Single Screen Integrated: one-way distribution of program enhancements that are delivered via the vertical blanking interval of analogue broadcasts, or as ancillary data streams of digital broadcasts. A set top box enables the viewer to interact with the content as it is received. Asynchronous Program Enhancements: one-way program related information is delivered to local set-top box storage, where it can be called up from the viewer at any time. Synchronous Program Enhancements: These can be one-way and two-way program related enhancements that are time specific and must be presented at the appropriate time along with the main content.

These are only a few of the definitions proffered by various authors, however, the ever changing complexity and breadth of iTV makes reaching definitive definitions somewhat elusive, and perhaps even futile – the permutations are seemingly endless. Perhaps it therefore more helpful to actually examine the various forms of iTV currently in the

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marketplace, and hence gain a better understanding of what the medium is capable of in a practical sense.

4.2

ITV Applications

Placing the various iTV applications within neat categories is not always possible, given that many of the applications have the capacity to cross boundaries and are increasingly multi-functional, however the author attempts to locate them within categories based loosely on their intended objectives.

4.2.1

Information Services

Also known as datacasting, iTV information services are perhaps the most basic of the interactive applications; their interactivity, in most instances, only extending as far the viewer’s ability to remotely select and scroll through ‘Web like’ pages. In fact, this kind of iTV has been common in Europe since the late 1980’s, primarily in the form of Teletext, a stream of text based information transmitted in the Vertical Blanking Interval of the analogue broadcast signal. Requiring a Teletext compatible TV, or set-top box, this service not only transmits news, sports, movie and entertainment listings, but also closed captions or subtitles for the hearing impaired. It is often remarked that Europe’s early embrace of iTV services is a direct result of the Teletext like services offered there, in contrast to the United States and Australia, which lacked widespread acceptance of the service, and as a result, on Internet based information services. The advent of digital television will eventually see the phasing out of these analogue text based information services, though they will be replicated in the digital form, allowing the incorporation of richer graphics. They are predominantly one-way information services, though the provision of ‘back channels’ will increasingly see them migrate to two-way interactivity. According to OpenTV, an iTV middleware provider, these information based services lend themselves to sponsorship and advertising models of revenue raising, especially in conjunction with “respected information providers around the world.” (OpenTV, 2002 p. 5) This enables broadcasters to provide constantly updated material from news organisations such as CNN, Reuters and AAP.

News An example of this most basic form of iTV is provided by Australia’s first iTV provider, the rural and regional satellite based Austar. Austar’s iDaily provides news and other information on a simple one-way messaging basis. Using arrow keys and buttons on the remote, viewers are able to select and scroll through a number of news headlines covering world and local events, sports, finance and entertainment. Similar to Web pages, selecting a headline loads another page with the full story, which can then be scrolled through. The author found this to be a useful and simple application, though the pages loaded rather

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slowly, and the prospect of reading large amounts of text on an interlaced standard definition monitors unappealing for anything but a cursory exploration of the day’s events.

Figure 4.1 Austar iDaily news application.

More sophisticated systems, supported by advanced set-top boxes, are able to access information services while continuing to watch video programming. In the case of BBC Digital Teletext, the video program stream shrinks to one side of the screen, while interactive text based information can be accessed in the remainder of the screen space.

Weather Weather based services are perhaps the most popular form of one-way interactivity, offering a bewildering array of climatic data, both locally and internationally. Again, Austar iWeather service offers a simple, yet effective approach to disseminating a wide range of weather information, offering the viewer the ability to scroll and select from statewide forecasts down to local regions. Other options include marine forecasts, snow and surf reports, as well as access to localised international weather reports. While iWeather is limited to text and basic graphics, other services, such as Spain’s TPS Meteo Express includes animated graphics, as well as a 24 hour animated satellite map. As the most popular iTV application on TPS, the company has apparently been successful in generating income from sponsorship/advertising incorporated on this application (Broadbandbananas, 2002). This is achieved through the innovative use of full screen advertising splash screens, periodically launched as the viewer navigates the site’s pages. Although this is iTV at its

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most basic, weather information services are perhaps the most useful to the general viewer, providing up to date information, quickly and affordably, simply by switched on the television set. It can be said that this is an application that is fulfilling a viewer need and is likely to remain popular.

Figure 4.2 Austar’s iWeather application.

Figure 4.3 TPS METEO EXPRESS application.

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Lifestyle and Horoscope Predominantly text and graphic based, lifestyle and horoscope iTV is also a popular format, allowing one-way interaction on the more basic set-top boxes. As with other one-way based applications, the viewer is not actually interacting with the broadcaster, but interacting with the set-top box, which has stored all the pages necessary for the particular application. The range of lifestyle applications is naturally diverse, from automobiles, gardening, and sports, to cooking, parenting and antiques. Elle Cuisine is a French virtual magazine that provides food related information, such as recipes, and is a good example of web content repurposed for iTV.

Figure 4.4 Elle Cuisine Recipe magazine.

Horoscopes are another popular information application, their limited scope well suited to the spontaneous immediacy of television delivery. In the case of the Comete Horoscope application, interactivity is again limited to the set-top box, with the broadcaster offering free content, while seeking to entice the viewer to pick up the telephone and dial a phone based horoscope, for which they will be charged. In circumstances where a back channel is present, usually a dial up modem in the set-top box, the prospect of directly charging the viewer for access to content is seen by broadcasters as a means to generate revenue. This form of revenue generation has become particularly prevalent on UK iTV sites, where viewers run the risk of accumulating substantial costs. The UK Claire Petulengro Horoscope site allows the viewer to access a one day horoscope free of charge, after which all other content is charged at an exorbitant 25 Pence per minute. Given the emotional power and immediacy of television, the author predicts that these type of pay sites will eventually eclipse similar telephone based services.

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Figure 4.5 Comete horoscope application.

Government and Local Information Information based iTV applications are also suited to a whole host of local and government services, such as local traffic conditions, cinema and restaurant listings, school information, local events as well as official government information. At the forefront is a UK Government initiative to make all of its services available via the Web and interactive TV by 2005. The first stage commenced in April 2002, when some of the information services already available on the Web were re-purposed and launched on a dedicated iTV channel accessible through the Sky Active satellite service (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.41 April 18). The service includes all sorts of government related information, from upcoming sporting events, to crime prevention, parenting tips and a searchable directory of public internet access points. The intention is to migrate all Government information services to the iTV platform, and hence help to overcome the digital divide for those without computers and internet connections. Interestingly, despite being a government service, users will be charged for access to this service via their set-top box modem, incurring timed local call charges, as well as a 1p per minute fee.

Figure 4.6 UK Online Interactive

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4.2.2

Communication Applications

Communication iTV applications allow viewers to send and receive communications between each other, to broadcasters, as well as specialist services. Naturally, these kind of communications require a back channel from the set-top box, as well as the facility to input text based data via either a remote control or an infra-red keyboard. It is important to note that a constantly open back channel is not always required, unless the viewer continues to send and receive data. In most instances, the viewer will be charged a fee every time they go online and send data via the back channel.

Email and Short Message Service The most obvious form of iTV communication is the facility to send and receive emails, granting people without computers a cost effective entry into Internet enabled communication. However, current email applications do not support attachments. Similar applications also support SMS text messaging, allowing viewers to also send instant text messages to mobile phones. Both services have been popular in the UK. While entering text via an infra-red keyboard is user friendly, some iTV networks do not support that facility, instead requiring the user to tediously enter text characters via their remote control, or in some cases via a remotely controlled ‘virtual keyboard’. In most instances, T-Mail applications are not free, incurring both access fees as well as set-up costs. T-Mail on Australian Austar requires the purchase of an Interactive Services Kit for $99, a $5 per month T-Mail subscription fee, as well connection charges every time the user sends or receives messages (Austar 2002).

Figure 4.7 TV Mail on Liberate platform.

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Figure 4.8 SMS TV on Canal Satellite. Note virtual keyboard.

Chat UK broadcasters are finding that chat applications, when related to programming, create both viewer ‘stickiness’ as well as an additional revenue stream. Chat applications allow viewers to communicate with each other in synchronicity with television programs, a popular function during sporting events. In May 2002, the UK’s Sky Sports Active offered viewers a live chat functionality prior to broadcasts of FA Cup and Scottish Cup soccer finals. One hour prior to the games, viewers are able to access the chat application by pressing the red button on their remotes, and then selecting ‘Chat’ from the menu, launching a chat interface with a quarter screen video. The viewer’s set-top box modem then dials up the back channel providing the necessary two-way communication, which is charged by the broadcaster at 5 pence per minute (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.45 May 1). At 5 Pence per minute, roughly 14 Australian cents, participation in this one hour chat program would see the viewer rack up a charge of at least $8 - $9 Australian dollars. A viewer that engaged in this form of interactivity often would be faced with back channel bills in the hundreds of dollars every month. With back channel charges for other iTV services even higher than Sky’s chat service, it is not surprising that the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, the UK regulatory body responsible for monitoring premium rate telephone services, reported in April 2002 that more than 25% of complaints it received from the public derived from excessive iTV back channel charges (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.45 April 21).

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Figure 4.9 C Dans L’air, viewers pose questions via SMS.

On a more positive note, chatting applications also allow viewers to directly participate in television programs, either by chatting directly with television presenters, or by sending in questions for those appearing to answer. During the 2002 soccer World Cup, BBCi will offer viewers the opportunity to chat with presenters and commentators after each of the fifty-six matches being broadcast. Other services, such as France’s daily program C Dans L’air utilise SMS messaging as viewers pose questions to interviewees.

4.2.3

Enhanced TV

Often, when people are referring to interactive television, they are actually talking about Enhanced Television, also known as Synchronised Television. In most cases, Enhanced TV does not require a back channel, and as such is a one-way interactive. Enhanced TV offers additional program related information, such as multiple video streams, text based supporting information, manipulation of sound and images, as well as the ability to play along with quiz shows. In the case of one-way enhancements, viewers are simply interacting with the content broadcast to the set-top box, which decodes the mixed signal from the broadcaster, enabling local interaction. Increasingly, systems supported by advanced set-top boxes and a back channel are pushing the limits of Enhanced TV to also offer online voting, quizzes and competitions.

One-Way Enhanced TV While the distinction between one-way and two-way enhancements is continuing to blur, many programs predominantly fall into the traditional one-way enhanced TV definition, these range from documentaries, TV specials, children’s programs, and especially sport.

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In the case of documentary, the interactive functionality once only offered via DVD technology, is currently being experimented with in the United Kingdom, with the BBC’s Walking With Beasts Interactive an important step in that direction. Broadcast on the Sky digital network, Walking With Beasts offered four different synchronous video streams, each dealing with a specific angle of the program, along with the ability to select different narrations based on the viewer’s level of specialised interest in the topic. Viewers therefore have the ability to watch the program in a linear fashion, along with the optional use of factoids, pop up information boxes offering additional facts, or digress from the main program to watch video covering more in depth aspects of the program, such as the making of the show, as well as expert interviews. Navigation is via the four standard colour buttons on the viewer remote: red, green, yellow, and blue. As the various applications of the interactive are broadcast synchronously, the viewer will have to choose which aspect of the program to watch, consequently missing other segments, including the main presentation. To overcome this problem, each episode of the program was broadcast in a continuous loop for a week, affording viewers the opportunity to watch the program again, exploring previously unseen material. A recent press release described the totality of the interactivity offered to the viewer:

“In total, the interactive version of Walking With Beasts provides four hours of additional video content, three hours of alternative commentary and 700 complementary text boxes. The program makers interviewed over 50 of the world’s top paleontologists in eight different countries, and consulted over 400 leading experts in mammalian evolution to compile the additional information” (ABC 2002)

According to the BBC (ABC 2002), over 2.1 million of the 9 million Sky digital satellite viewers tuned into Walking With Beasts when it was broadcast in the UK last November. In July 2002, Australia’s ABC will broadcast the program through the Austar digital satellite system, as well as the Optus cable iTV service. Questions have been raised about the suitability of the public broadcasters transmitting via commercial pay services such as Sky in the UK, and Austar/Optus in Australia, however, given the lack of free-to-air digital receivers and set-top boxes in the home, there is little other option at this stage.

[Update 5/5/03. After the screening of Walking With Beasts ABC New Media reported that a follow up survey indicated that 98% (presumably the 300,000 Austar viewers) of viewers wished to see more iTV enabled documentaries. The ABC’s second interactive documentary followed in December 2002, titled, Long Way to the Top – Live in Concert. This program offered viewers different camera angles, backstage interviews and archival footage (Swedlow, Nov, 2002). Another study by ABC New Media indicated that 81% of iTV Long Way to the Top viewers were positive about the interactive options offered.]

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Figure 4.10 Walking With Beasts. BBC interactive documentary. Select desired narration.

Figure 4.11 Walking With Beasts. BBC interactive documentary. Press yellow button to watch alternative video.

Other programs are also experimenting with iTV enhancements, such as Discovery Channel’s Shark Weekend, which allows the viewer to call up additional supporting information, while the main video stream shrinks to a portion of the screen. This is an approach expanded upon by Sky News Active, which now supports eight simultaneous video streams on one screen, with each stream selectable, leading to quarter screen video and text information. Other programs allow the viewer to interact with both the audio and

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picture displayed on their screen, a function particularly popular with kids. MTV Hits Interactive on Sky Digital allows the viewer to stamp pre-determined ‘stickers” on top of the video stream, while Austar’s Nickelodeon children’s channel allows viewers to “ZAP” the screen by pressing the remote’s green button – this results in the picture bouncing all over the screen. Other forms of interactivity elicit special effect sounds from the television.

Figure 4.12 Discovery Shark Weekend interactive documentary.

Figure 4.13 Sky News Active. Note voting and eight video streams.

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Figure 4.14 MTV Hits. Viewers can place sticker on screen.

Interactive Sports Interactive sports programming has been one of the most successful iTV applications in the United Kingdom, with the BBC’s Digital Media & Broadband Solutions department citing some impressive figures for the year 2001. During Wimbledon 2001, a 2 week period, the BBC’s interactive service was accessed 4 million times on the Sky platform, almost half of all subscribers. Moreover the Open Golf Tournament Interactive received over 1.3 million hits during the four days of play (Mecklenburgh 2001). Sports programming is therefore proving to be a key driver digital television, offering viewers scores, player profiles, statistics, competitions, and multiple video streams. The widely acclaimed Wimbledon 2001 iTV coverage enabled digital Sky viewers to select from five different games, simultaneously played, broadcast and featured on a single menu screen. Using the Up and Down keys on the remote, each particular game could be highlighted, switching the audio commentary and offering the viewer the option of enlarging that particular game to full screen video. Match scores and results from previous games could also be accessed, shrinking the full screen image a smaller portion of the screen. The BBC’s coverage of the 2001 Open Golf employed a similar technique, offering multi-view video stream through a single screen interface.

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Figure 4.15 BBC Wimbledon 2001

Figure 4.16 BBC World Cup soccer 2002.

Figure 4.17 BBC World Cup 2002 Figure 4.18 BBC Winter Olympics 2002

Moreover, the BBC recently announced plans to offer multi-screen coverage of the upcoming 2002 World Cup, as well as the Commonwealth Games, using the above technique to broadcast four of the eight games that clash during the tournament. The BBC also plans to do this across all digital platforms, including satellite, terrestrial and cable. However, this is contingent upon government approval. Other applications to be offered to 2002 World Cup viewers include: a channel devoted to the English team, replete with player profiles, statistics, news, match replays, press conferences and highlights; viewer chat with BBC presenters (back channel required); as well as the usual assortment of alternative audio tracks, highlights, replays and statistics made available during games (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.45 April 12). Not all viewers will be able to access all of these services, as some terrestrial and cable viewers do not posses advanced set-top boxes. A similar 2002 World Cup coverage will be provided by Latin America’s satellite system, DirecTV LA, offering switchable cameras, multiple audio feeds, background information, statistics, as well as a vote for the most valuable player (requires back channel) (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.45 April 29).

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Figure 4.19 F1 Digital+ on Sky. Driver Stats.

Figure 4.20 Sky Sports Active. Player Cam.

Two-Way Enhanced TV Increasingly, the above one-way TV enhancements are being supplemented with viewer feedback via a back channel, resulting in limited two-way enhanced interactivity. In most instances, although the viewer is providing feedback, initially this interaction is with the set-top box, where the viewer input is accumulated and sent via the dial up back channel to the broadcaster at the appropriate time.

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Some of the most common uses of this type of interactivity are viewer voting applications, which have featured on many European iTV programs. Sky News Active offers viewers a daily vote on a leading news related issue, and according to Sky, this has resulted in over 2 million votes since voting began in March 2001 (Broadbandbananas 2002). At 25 Pence per vote, this simple application has generated over 500,000 Pounds. Similarly, Channel Four’s Big Brother 2001 interactive generated over 200,000 Pounds in voting revenue, facilitated by a daily polling question concerning the behaviour of the contestants (Mecklenburgh 2001). In 2002, Big Brother is slated to offer even greater enhancements, including house eviction voting, more opinion polls, viewer mobile phone text messages presented as on screen tickers, quizzes, as well as the ability to place bets on Big Brother contestants. This is in addition to the one way program enhancements, such as 24 hour live video feeds from the house, video highlights, as well as the capacity to view 4 video feeds on one screen (Swedlow 2002, Issue 4.50 May 27).

Figure 4.21 Voting on Sky News.

Figure 4.22 Big Brother 2001

Interactive quiz shows seem to be leading the charge in two-way program interactive television, a genre of programming ideally suited to viewer participation via simple remote control interaction. There are a large number of programs offering a quiz format, but perhaps the most obvious one is Discovery Mastermind, a synchronised interactive quiz that allows the viewer to answer questions just before the contestant answers. During the program, the viewer is not actually interacting with the broadcaster, but instead with their set-top box, which records the viewer’s answers and calculates a final score. It is at this final stage that the viewer is encouraged to submit their personal score to the show via a dial up back channel, which is charged as a premium rate call. A similar application will be used in 2002 for the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire interactive, allowing viewers to participate in the game and submit their scores to a ‘viewers league table’, with the top four viewers invited onto the show in person to participate in a ‘viewers final’ (BBC 2001).

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Figure 4.23 Discovery Channel’s Mastermind.

Other interactive quiz shows offer viewers the chance to participate and win prizes, with Denmark’s interactive ROFL quiz show perhaps the most sophisticated to date. Aimed at a 10-14 year old audience, ROFL is a consumer infotainment show that has capitalised on the younger generation’s familiarity with interactive media structures, attracting a loyal following among that group. The program goes beyond the simple question and answer style quiz, requiring the viewer to immerse themselves in the content, exploring additional video feeds and information sources to find the correct answers. Unlike other quiz shows, which seem to have attached interactivity as an after thought, ROFL was created as an interactive program (Agency.com 2001). According to Visionik, the company responsible for the interactive content creation, “Viewers of ROFL have four main interactive functions at their disposal during the live broadcast; participation in a quiz, choosing between different video streams, selecting additional information about topics raised in the show and participation in surveys and polls.” (Visionik 2001).

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Figure 4.24 ROFL Interactive consumer quiz show.

Another creative use of quiz style programming tailored to the strengths of iTV is E4’s Japanese style betting show, Banzai. Directed at the 18 to 34 age group, Banzai is a funky comedy interactive that invites viewers to use their remote control to place ‘bets’ on the outcome of absurd scenarios, such as Grandmother Wheel Chair Chicken, or the amount of time it takes before an interviewee deserts a silent interviewer. The viewer accumulates a score from a number of such games, with the option of submitting the score via the back channel to win prizes - the broadcaster generates revenue through premium rate modem connections.

Figure 4.25 Banzai

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4.2.4

Games

According to research by Forrester, games are currently the most popular application on interactive television, supporting over three million played games per day (Forrester 2001). The BBC recently reported that UK satellite and cable companies generated over 4 million pounds on iTV game applications. While slow to take off, a study by Datamonitor predicts that games will be the ‘killer app’ of iTV, generating over $2.7 billion by 2006. The study also predicts that iTV companies will derive 90% of their revenue from subscription and pay-to-play games, resulting in a gradual move away from free iTV games services (Mecklenburgh 2001).

Figure 4.26 Games top Forrester Research 2001

ITV game applications include a whole range of genres, from basic games such as solitude and checkers, to action games, as well as games of skill and co-ordination. A method of reducing customer ‘churn’ in the UK digital pay TV market, games were initially offered to digital subscribers free of charge, along with the option of advertiser sponsorship. The BBC’s CBeebies Bob the Builder is an example of free gaming offered to children on the Sky platform, essentially a one-way set-top box game with no back channel. Using the four colors on the remote, the viewer has to build a tractor by match the coloured pieces on the screen.

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Figure 4.27 BBC Cbeebies game.

However, the existence of back channels, and the promising popularity of iTV gaming, has encouraged broadcasters to experiment with other revenue raising models, including payper-play, subscription, and premium rate telephone charges. In the latter instance, viewers are offered free games in the hope that they will lodge their scores via the back channel at premium telephone rates. Other games, such as David Beckham’s Soccer International Challenge, function on a pay-per-play basis, requiring an open back channel and 50p per game. While Austar has a range of free games, it also offers its viewers a subscription games service, LudiTV, featuring five new games each month for a fee of $5AUD per household. The company also has plans to introduce pay-per-play games in the latter half of 2002 (qtd in “ITV Marketer”).

[Update 5/5/03. Playjam, an interactive games network in Europe, is rolling out multiplayer games on the OpenTV platform, allowing viewers to compete against each other. The first games will be Multiplayer Darts, Football, and Poker. In 2002, a prototype of Multiplayer Darts received a record number of plays, and follow up research revealed that 67% of DTV homes were interested in multiplayer games. Interestingly, the games will be cross platform, allowing gamers to interact not only on TV, but also via mobile devices, including PDAs, mobile phones, PCs and Pocket PCs. Viewers will be able to send ‘invitations to play’ via SMS, with the company betting on greater ‘stickiness’ than traditional one-way interactions (BroadbandBananas, Mar 2003). Playjam has also secured French rights to the famous game Tetris, which has so far attracted 6.5 million games played in the UK market, costing 50 pence per play, and generating $3.5 million in revenue (BroadbandBananas, April, 2003). Moreover, BSkyB’s Gamestar portal attracted 7.7 million paid for games in a six month period in 2002.

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Popular iTV game, Banzai will continue for a third season, however, this time ‘betting’ will be offered on a pay-per-play basis, and viewers will lose their scores if they leave the application during commercial breaks. French iTV games company Visiware has teamed up with PVR/set-top box manufacturer Sagem, to create an iTV tennis game that employs the PVR’s hard drive to enhance the game’s picture and sound. The application includes complex graphics, video sequences, animation and sound effects.]

Figure 4.28 David Beckham’s Soccer International Challenge on Sky Active.

4.2.5

T-Commerce

T-Commerce is broadly defined as the purchasing of goods and services over the medium of television. For some time now, t-commerce has been seen as the holy grail of iTV, a direct line to the pockets of million of television viewers the world over. The promise has been encouraged by a wide range of research, highlighting the fact that U.S households watch more than 50 hours of TV per week, that 41 million US households will actively use iTV applications by 2005, and that 46% of US consumers are interested in t-commerce (Online ITV Dictionary 2002). However, despite the shinning predictions and high hopes of potential iTV traders, tcommerce has yet to fulfil anywhere near its promise, and more recent research into t-

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commerce suggests that it may never do so. A GartnerG2 study found that 94% of interactive customers had not made a single iTV purchase, with 35% claiming that they were not interested, and a further 40% unable to understand t-commerce applications. Of the 6% that did use the service, the average spend was less than $25US, predominantly pizzas or inexpensive program related merchandise (qtd in “Carton”). And the empirical evidence on the ground is even less encouraging, with the UK’s Sky OpenTV t-commerce platform generating only half a million transactions, from a total subscriber pool of 3.5 million viewers (ITV Marketer 2002). As a consequence of this poor performance, along with the substantial costs involved in preparing content and t-commerce infrastructure, the first two UK retailers to embrace t-commerce (Woolworths and Argos) announced in January 2002 that they were discontinuing their t-commerce venture. However, a recent announcement from the world’s biggest TV grocery store, Britain’s ASDA, seems to fly in the face of industry sentiment. With the roll-out of its Sky Active home shopping completed in May 2002, ASDA will offer viewers the opportunity to buy over 11,000 products via digital television, simply by pressing the red button on their remotes, which will then enable consumers to select and add products to a shopping basket. The company expects to reach 14 million UK households by the end of 2002 (Broadbandbananas 2002). Drawing conclusions from the above data is fraught with danger, given that both iTV and T-commerce applications are exceedingly new technologies, and over the long run may in fact prove phenomenally successful. However, as a technology in its infancy, the current evidence seems to suggest that t-commerce services should initially concentrate on products and services that are commensurate with the visual and emotional power of television. This would include iTV betting applications, currently generating over 55 million pounds per year on Sky, over half the company’s revenue from all iTV services, as well as 61 million Euro for France’s state owned gaming authority, the PMU (Mecklenburgh 2001). Programming related purchases, such as fast food, CD’s, DVDs, merchandising paraphernalia and special offers are also potentially successful emotional buying triggers. Banking is another probable application, as banks have the unique ability to close physical outlets, thereby forcing customers onto electronic services.

[Update 5/5/03. In February 2003, BSkyB reported that iTV betting had increased 160%, and iTV betting revenues 104%. The profit margin on iTV betting is 11%. In conjunction with Sky’s games portal, and other voting applications, iTV betting delivered an IARPU (interactive revenue per user) of 15 pounds, an increase of 16%. CanalSatellite also reports strong 2002 iTV betting figures: 70 million Euros wagered (Swedlow, Feb, 2003). Gaming and iTV betting applications seem to be proliferating in the iTV space, with stiff competition motivating Sky to recently launch Sky Bet Vegas, a service channel consisting of three games – Juicy Jackpot, Top Spin and Super Keno. However, concern is growing about the social impact of iTV gambling, prompting Sky to enter discussions with a UK charity dedicated to “responsible attitudes to gambling”. Possible ‘remedies’ include ageverification systems, information on gambling addiction, as well as gambling support lines (Swedlow, Nov, 2002). It would be interesting to see how well iTV would perform without gambling in the mix.]

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Figure 4.29 Football betting on Sky.

Figure 4.30 ITV Gambling Revenues in Europe. Source Datamonitor 2001

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Figure 4.30b Sky Bet Vegas – Juicy Jackpot.

One of the first, and most popular, t-commerce applications is Britain’s Domino’s Pizza on the Sky platform, enabling viewers to push the red button on their remote, which in turn directs them to a dedicated Domino’s Pizza site. The viewer is then able to navigate through the pizza order interactive, utlising the four colour keys to select, view and pay for the purchase. To conclude the transaction, the viewer checks the order, enters their credit card details and pushes the blue button to end the session. The process is simple and effective, and is the kind of t-commerce application that taps into the emotional purchasing power of television, so much so that 8% of Domino’s Pizza’s revenue comes from iTV (Broadbandbananas 2002). As an interesting aside, Domino Pizza reports that iTV orders are 35% greater in value than telephone orders, and that its iTV orders are three times that of web orders (Chippendale & Leach 2001). During 2001, a similar pizza application was piloted in Orange, New South Wales, offering viewers the opportunity to buy fast food from Pizza Hut. More sophisticated than Domino’s, the Pizza Hut interactive allowed the viewer to continue watching the television program in the top right hand corner of the screen while conducting the transaction. The viewer could also switch to full screen video at the touch of a button. This particular system relieved the viewer from entering their personal details, as each set-top box is already registered to a name and address, requiring the viewer to input their PIN number only. This same interactive was adapted for other products and services, however the performance of general commerce transactions has to date been less than enthusiastic.

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Figure 4.31 Pizza Hut Interactive

[Update 5/5/03. Companies are beginning to focus on greater commercialisation of smart card technology in European set-top boxes. It is believed that 90% of Europe’s set-top boxes are compatible, and possible uses include prepayment for goods/services, personal details, audience measurement, competitions, coupons and even TV frequent flier miles.]

Figure 4.32 MasterCard iTV trial.

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4.2.6

ITV Advertising

A close cousin of t-commerce is interactive television advertising, or iTV advertising. ITV advertising is essentially a standard television commercial, overlaid with interactive options that allow the viewer to access additional product information, request additional information, provide feedback to the advertiser, make an impulse purchase, or participate in competitions, votes and quizzes. User profiles and household account information held by the broadcaster also make it possible for advertisers to target different households with different products, and even different languages. In a market facing increasing fragmentation, with viewers in many countries able to access hundreds of channels, many broadcasters and advertisers see iTV advertising as a means of reaching viewers in a more targeted and value added way. This represents a major paradigm shift in television advertising, which traditionally has been a mass audience ‘pull’ medium, transmitted in the hope that buyer awareness of the advertised product would lead to increased business. ITV advertising, on the other hand, taps into the ‘push’ paradigm, aggressively pursuing an individual or group likely to be interested in a certain type of product, though in a marketplace populated by channel surfers, there is an added twist – advertisers must persuade viewers to engage through interactivity, enticing information, games, quizzes or competitions. Today, it seems as if the viewer expects to be compensated for their time. At present, the viewer entry point into interactive advertising falls into two categories; the ‘TSpot’ and the ‘Overlay Trigger’. A TSpot is essentially a banner ad, similar to those on the Internet, that is placed on non-video interactive content, such as electronic program guides and iTV information pages. ‘Clicking’ on the Tspot, by pressing a coloured button on the remote, directs the viewer to what is called a Dedicated Advertising Location (DAL), a ‘walled garden’ space provided by the broadcaster that allows the viewer to explore multiple pages and interact with the particular product featured on the TSpot. It is here that the advertiser and viewer go beyond the typical 30 second television ad and develop a more intimate relationship – or so the advertiser hopes. The viewer will be encouraged to interact through feedback or competitions, make a purchase, or order some additional information. The second viewer entry point is somewhat more sophisticated, employing an overlay trigger, which appears on screen at the appropriate time, signaling to the viewer that the Red button on their remote will lead them to additional information about the product. The overlay trigger also leads to the DAL, which could also be interpreted as essentially a web site with video functionality and a back channel that identifies the viewer.

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Figure 4.35 Panasonic Dedicated Advertiser Location – Entry points.

Figure 4.36 Panasonic Dedicated Advertiser Location – Structure.

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The Panasonic Icon vacuum cleaner iTV advertising application featured below is an example of a strategy that employed both entry points, both facilitated by the opportunity to win a year’s free cleaning. The diagram features the two entry points, as well as the interactive flow of the DAL itself, providing the viewer with four choices: a competition; order a brochure; view product information; as well as the opportunity to purchase the product. Research commissioned by Panasonic in the aftermath of the campaign revealed some impressive results: • • • • • • Sales up by 300% 29,000 viewers accessed the DAL Viewers remained on the site for an average 3 minutes and 30 seconds 93% of those accessing the DAL entered the competition Competition delivered 73% of those accessing DAL 63% of research respondents demonstrated brand and product recall (Panasonic 2001).

Other iTV experiments have also sustained encouraging responses, including a Virgin Mobile Phone iTV ad on Sky in 2001. This cleaver ad, activated via overlay triggers, as well as TSpots, enticed the viewer to enter the DAL to have a ‘moan’ about their mobile phone service, also affording them the chance to win a new mobile phone. Viewers were asked to answer three questions, the first about what they disliked about their phone service, the second asking if they wanted a brochure, and lastly, their age. As opposed to a 30 second television commercial, which basically only appeals to ‘pull’ brand marketing, this iTV advertisement accomplished that and more. Virgin pushed their brand even harder to an interested audience, gained some useful consumer data, determined the age of the viewer, and also offered to mail a brochure. Later research revealed a ‘click through’ rate of 1.6% of all viewers, which translated into 18,512 overlay ads and 4,791 banners (Chippendale & Leach 2001). Wink Communications, a leading iTV content platform in the United States, reports that the overall “take rate” for iTV advertising offers is an astonishing 38-45%, with free coupons generating the most “takes” at 42-63%, with brochures at 32-40% (Wink 2001). Australian Austar also reports some success with iTV ads, including a Toyota LandCruiser campaign that generated around $1million in sales (Austar 2002). According to research by WorldGate, another iTV platform company in the U.S., 37% of consumers would like to access information via iTV ads, a claim ostensibly supported by a iTV ad trial that company conducted with AT&T in Iowa, which resulted a click through rate in access of 75% (Hoffman 2001). The BBC also recorded a significant success in 2001 with its Children in Need Campaign, allowing viewers to respond to the fundraising advertisement by clicking through to make a donation via their remote controls, resulting in 28,500 donations totaling 473,000 Pounds. On the strength of this, a similar campaign was launched on Sky in May 2002 by the British Red Cross (Swedlow Issue 4.46 May 5).

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Figure 4.33 Virgin Mobile Interactive survey & competition

However, despite the promising initial response to interactive advertising there are significant barriers to its widespread adoption. While advertisers may like the idea of viewers departing programs to interact with them further, program makers and broadcasters recognise that this kind of interaction interrupts the program flow, both the particular program they are watching, as well as any program that follows. Even the advertisers themselves are concerned about program flow, as viewers clicking through someone else’s DAL will miss some ads entirely. One advertiser’s 3 minute click through, is another’s complete loss. To partially counter this concern, some iTV ad applications allow the viewer to continue watching the program, either in a small window, or full screen with the basic advertisement interaction presented as an overlay. Watching the program in a small window may prove be both unrewarding as well as confusing, while application overlays are only suitable for the most basic of interactions, such as ordering a brochure. Other advertisers are taking a completely different approach, employing product placement within content, or brand association with iTV applications that users are willing to interact with, such as games. The Pampers iTV advertisement takes product placement one step further, offering viewers with young children iTV content with no obvious advertiser affiliation, in this case information about infant development. Blurring the distinction between advertising and content, this iTV ‘ad’ offered mothers a baby forum, including video, text, email newsletter, as well as the opportunity to seed in feedback and pictures of their babies. In this instance, the advertisers were satisfied to transmit a ‘branded experience’. It is important to note that this advertisement did not interfere with program flow, as it was accessible via a text based information menu, and for all intents and purposes is a datacasting application.

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Figure 4.34 Pampers iTV forum for mothers.

In true iTV advertising applications, it remains to be seen how the program flow dilemma will resolve itself. The author believes that iTV ad applications carry with them the inherent danger of too much interactivity, resulting in a web like experience, an experience less than satisfying for both entertainment purposes, as well as advertising. This is not a danger at present, given the low level of iTV ads, but in the future the prospect of viewers clicking through multiple applications will change the medium of television forever. Advertisers will then find themselves with a market resembling the fragmentation of the Internet; broadcasters will be unable to deliver a large consolidated audience and content makers will not be able to secure the investment to produce worthwhile programming. Moreover, beyond the novelty value, there is no guarantee that viewers will continue to interact with iTV commercials.

4.3

Personalised TV

The great nirvana of television is often characterised as Personalised TV, also referred to as ‘time shifting’, and Custom TV. Personalised TV is a form of ‘interactivity’ that goes beyond the broadcaster controlled experience of television, allowing the viewer to determine what and when they consume content, forever changing the traditional broadcaster/viewer relationship, with far reaching consequences. Personalised TV is at the cutting edge of television technology, with companies from disparate backgrounds in IT, broadcasting and interactive television currently locked in a desperate battle to stake out territory in a world of television potentially predicated on consumer choice. At present, there are three main applications critical to the success of such a revolution in television consumption, they include, Electronic Program Guides; Personal Video Recorders; and Video On Demand.

4.3.1

Electronic Programs Guides

At their most basic, Electronic Program Guides, or EPGs, are essentially electronic on screen program guides, similar to a print based TV listings guide, where viewers are able to scroll through program listings containing program information and transmission times. Common to cable and satellite companies, these early version EPGs were carried on

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dedicated channels, and with the exception of the ability to scroll through a long list of programs, offered the viewer no interactivity or enhanced services. However, these basic listings have been replaced by increasingly sophisticated interactive EPGs, enabled by settop boxes to offer a number of significant enhancements. EPG functionality is dependent upon the degree of sophistication of the broadcaster platform, as well as the consumers settop box. Basic EPG interactivity includes: • • • • •

The ability to call up a program guide via the remote, and scroll through program listings, both past and future. Display channel number, program title and duration during channel changes or via the remote. Textual information on any program in the program listing, accessed via remote. Ability to switch programs by clicking a program in the listing. The is done immediately for a program currently playing, and delayed for programs scheduled to play at a future time/date (Thomas 2001). The inclusion of graphics.

More advanced EPG interactivity includes: • • • • • •

Supported by program metadata, the ability to search for programming by title, time, genre, actor, and time, both current and scheduled broadcasts. Order and payment of Video on Demand programs Internet browsing, chat and email applications. Build user profiles, alerting viewers to upcoming favourite programs. Access restrictions for children. The ability to select programs for future recording – recording, requires special PVR hardware.

In a television viewing environment characterised by channel proliferation, with broadcasters such as BSkyB in the UK offering subscribers over 200 channels, interactive EPGs become a vital component of viewer program navigation. In fact, with even more fragmentation and choice on the way with impending digital technologies, interactive EPGs are quickly becoming the gateways to the world of television, games, information, Tcommerce and communication. Their searchable metadata systems have also made on demand television a distinct possibility.

4.3.2

Personal Video Recorders

Essentially digital set-top computers with advanced software and large hard drives, Personal Video Recorders, or PVRs, represent the beginning of the convergence of computers and television. These units work in conjunction with EPGs to allow viewers to

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digitally record transmitted television programs, which are saved on the hard drive and either played back directly with a momentary delay, or played back at a later time at the viewers convenience. As digital storage devices, PVRs enable random access style functions, including the ability to pause off-air material, execute instant replays, skip forward and back through programming, as well as the ability to skip commercials entirely. The device also allows viewers to watch one program while recording another. It is in program selection that PVRs intersect with electronic program guides, dependent on detailed program metadata to successfully search and record desired programs.

Figure 4.37 UEC VR 800 Personal Video Recorder (PVR)

Figure 4.38 TiVo Series2 DVR (PVR)

Three major companies have entered the PVR fray, the current leader, TiVo, ReplayTV, now owned by SonicBlue, as well as Microsoft with its UltimateTV system. Capable of recording up to 320 hours of video, the ReplayTV and TiVo systems in the Unites States require customers to first purchase the device, costing anywhere from $599US for a 30 hour version, up to $2000US for 320 hour capacity, and then pay a monthly subscription of $10 to $20 (Grotticelli 2001). The subscription fee covers the updating of EPGs, which are downloaded during down time via the PVRs modem, as well as other promotional material that is presented to the viewer, often based on user profiles. Microsoft’s UltimateTV system works in conjunction with American satellite broadcaster DirecTV, providing satellite reception by feeding the digital signal through the PVR. In the United Kingdom, the Sky network recently introduced TiVo PVRs, available to viewers prepared to purchase the devices and pay a premium pay TV subscription rate.

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The bigger picture envisaged by companies such as TiVo and ReplayTV extended beyond the ability to search and record upcoming programs offered by local television providers, to eventually include a truly global system of content on demand, accessible via vast metadata databases and video servers. While the ability to call up any episode of a favourite television program is alluring, PVR technology has run into fierce resistance from content owners, privacy concerns from consumers, and sheer terror by television broadcasters and advertisers. Not to mention viewer confusion as to the functionality of PVR technology. In the latter case, confusion among US consumers, a market that has had PVRs for two years, has seen mediocre sales of only 500,000 PVR devices (Ibid.). These lackluster sales resulted in SonicBlue taking over ReplayTV and incorporating its technology in its own devices, while Microsoft recently eliminated its UltimateTV iTV division, after struggling to gain a foot hold (ISP News 2002). Consumers in the UK have also had a less than satisfactory PVR experience, with angry reports emanating about broadcasters invading their privacy and taking liberties with their property. In May 2002, viewers singled out the BBC for the harshest criticism, after this public broadcaster secretly recorded an episode of the new BBC sitcom Dossa and Joe onto viewer’s PVRs – without their permission. Viewers were further incensed when they discovered that they could not erase the recording for at least a week. Far from recoiling from the outcry, both the BBC and TiVo defended their actions, and signaled that more ‘sponsored’ automatic recordings were on the way. It is certainly curious that a public broadcaster such as the BBC is engaging in such maverick programming tactics. While many dread the introduction of ‘spam television’, companies such as TiVo are boldly pushing ahead with this business model. A week later, TiVo did another sponsorship deal, this time in the U.S., automatically recording advertisements for a Sheryl Crow album, along with two ads for electronics retailer Best Buy (Smith 2002). This raises the privacy issue; while consumers own their PVRs, companies such as TiVo have free access to their operating systems, enabling forced recordings, data collection, software upgrades and functionalities. In fact, countries such as the Unites States have no legislation to prevent this kind of data collection and forced advertising. The much hyped promise of viewer control is beginning to look decidedly at risk. This is compounded by recent revelations that PVR software has the capacity to block the viewer from making certain recordings, should the broadcaster wish to do so. However, it is not only consumers that are questioning this brave new world of television, content producers, broadcasters and advertisers are concerned that allowing viewers to make digital recordings not only encourages piracy, but will undermine established business model of television, brought about by viewers utlising the technology to skip commercials. Gravely alarmed by the threat that PVRs pose to the established order of film and television distribution, the major American television networks, along with the Hollywood studios are at this moment embroiled in a legal battle with ReplayTV owner, SonicBlue, charging the company with copyright infringement for allowing users to illegally record programs, skip commercials and swap programs with other PVR viewers. Many in the industry see the outcome this legal action as having far reaching consequences for all concerned, including consumers. The author returns to point made in Chapter 2 about multi-channeling and viable business models, specifically that somewhere along the

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line someone has to be willing to pay for quality content, otherwise there will be no content. With the television industry already facing crippling fragmentation due to multichanneling and the proliferation of channels, the advertisement skipping, piracy enabling PVR technology may in fact push it over the edge. On the piracy front, iTV message boards reveal that some PVR viewers are already buying additional disk drives to swap and generally treat as VCR like recording formats. It is also worth noting here that other convergence technologies are also waiting in the wings, in particular, video game systems such as Sony PlayStation2, Microsoft X-Box and Nintendo’s recently released GameCube. At present these game consoles lack TV tuner cards to receive TV signals, as well as hard drives to record content. However, with broadband technologies expanding rapidly, and the cost of TV tuner cards under $200, it is entirely probable that these functions will be added at a later date (Fischetti 2001). Already Sony is offering a plug-in adapter to access the Internet, including narrowband video streaming via RealNetworks software, as well as a 40-GB hard drive and wireless keyboard/mouse for navigating the Web.

[Update 5/5/03. While the press continues to rave about TiVo, predicting the demise of commercial television, the actual take up of TiVo continues to flounder at a combined UK/US subscription of 624,000 users, or .05% of total US TV homes. The company recorded a loss of approximately $55 million in 2002, in addition to pulling out of the UK market in early 2003. With increasing DVR competition on the horizon, TiVo is moving away from subscription services to focus on licensing its technology to manufacturers of consumer electronics, such as Sony and Toshiba. Expect to see DVR functionality incorporated in a range of products, including DVD players, cable/satellite set-top boxes, TVs, PCs and mobile devices. Consumer electronic companies are also considering linking household devices via removable DVR style hard drives. Both Sony and Microsoft have started adding DVR functionality to their software/PCs. Pioneer and Zenith are releasing DVD-DVR recorders in 2003. Cable operators and satellite companies are rolling out their own DVR capability. EchoStar currently commands 45% of the US DVR market, while Cox Communications recently released a combination cable set-top box/DVR, costing subscribers $9.95 a month. In Japan, DoCoMo’s mobile phone subscribers can program their DVRs from I-mode phones. InStat/MDR predicts that global DVR shipments to increase from 1.5 million in 2002, to over 11 million in 2005 (qtd in Lieberman, 2003). In November 2002, Scientific-Atlanta polled 300 cable customers about their use of DVR technology, the results indicating that DVRs translate into more time spent watching television. 52% watched more TV with their DVRs; 43% watched a greater range of channels; 66% of users recorded one program while they watched another (Brown, 2003). Forrester Research predicts that 16% of US households will have a DVR by 2005, while BSkyB expects that 20% of its subscribers will have a DVR by 2007 (Economist, Jan 2003). While DVR users report high satisfaction with the technology, customer satisfaction has failed to result in mass market appeal, although, as the predictions indicate, DVR adoption is likely to grow. Analysts have noted a number of obstacles to greater DVR penetration, including monthly subscription fees, consumer confusion, lack of consumer education, privacy concerns, as well as high prices.

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While SonicBlue’s ReplayTV has promoted its ad skipping functionality to consumers, TiVo has not emphasised its 30 second advance function, and thus, has avoided a clash with content owners. The advance button function is activated by entering a five button code, although it is an undocumented feature. However, broadcasters and advertisers remain deeply concerned about the threat that DVRs represent to the financial viability of commercial television. These sentiments seem to be supported by a recent CNW Marketing Research report, which indicated that 72% of PVR users skip commercials (Gibson, 2002). This prompted Jamie Kellner of the Association of National Advertisers to comment, “…the television business cannot exist, unless consumers are willing to give time for marketers (qtd in “Gibson” 2002). TiVo, and DVR supporters in general, have argued that advertisers must learn to reach viewers in more engaging ways, such as adding interactivity to commercials, forced DVR downloading of dedicated advertising campaigns, as well as embedding advertising in programming. In February 2003, TiVo entered into a deal with 20th Century Fox to download ‘showcase’ info-commercials, featuring film trailers, interviews with stars, ‘the making of’ footage, as well as film related music/soundtracks. These info commercials are downloaded automatically to the hidden partitioned section of the DVR’s hard drive late at night. A similar deal was made with Best Buy in 2002, which allows viewers to leave the programming to interact with a Best Buy commercial, generally product and catalogue information, which is stored on the hard drive. While such measures are likely to be appealing to viewers in some circumstances, such as movie trailers, it is perhaps a little unrealistic to expect them to willingly view less disguised advertising, especially beyond the novelty stage. Moreover, the prospect of embedding even more advertising in existing programming is likely to negatively impact on the quality of television content, blurring the distinction between content and advertising to such an extent that many viewers will be tempted to switch off, or seek commercial free subscription/package media entertainment. Despite reassurances that consumer viewing information will not be used without viewer authorisation, concerns still linger about DVR privacy. In August 2002, Nielsen Media Research teamed up with TiVo to track viewer DVR usage, made possible by the forced downloading of tracking software to all TiVo DVRs. While all the DVRs have the tracking software on their hard drives, Nielsen insists that data will only be collected from households that have agreed to participate. A number of companies have announced plans to introduce high definition TV DVRs in 2003, with Zenith already unveiling an 80 GB HDTV DVR, capable of recording up to eight hours of HDTV content, in March 2003. Estimated retail cost is $999US. TiVo’s original rival, SonicBlue’s ReplayTV, went bankrupt in March 2003 - $335 million in debt. As a consequence of ReplayTV’s 30 second commercial skipping button and file sharing capacity, the company suffered heavy losses in a two year legal battle with twenty odd media companies seeking to remove these features. However, the company’s problems didn’t end there, as ReplayTV suffered from low consumer demand, penetrating only 5% of the DVR market.]

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4.3.3

Video On Demand (VOD)

Cable and satellite broadcast companies are attempting to meet the PVR threat head-on, by offering viewers more choice through Video On Demand services, or Near Video on Demand Services (NVOD). NVOD has been a feature of American cable and satellite services for some time, a system whereby broadcasters dedicate a number of channels to one program, usually a movie, which is transmitted at different intervals, affording the viewer a greater range of viewing times. A similar term is Pay-Per-View (PPV), however modern NVOD systems actually send these multiple channels from a video server, which is then buffered in the viewer’s sent-top box and presented on the screen. With both PPV and NVOD systems, viewers must still wait anywhere from 10 minutes up to two hours for a movie feature to start, depending how many channels have been dedicated to the program. VOD on the other hand, is true video on demand, allowing the viewer to search and select from a large menu or EPG of programs offered by a service provider, instantly download the program to the viewer’s PVR hard drive, where they are able to watch the movie at their leisure. All of the above systems require a back channel for ordering and payment, although in more primitive systems the back channel is simple a voice telephone call to the service provider. Advanced NVOD and VOD video servers are actually integrated computer systems, as Joan Van Tassel writes:

“From a hardware standpoint, a media server is actually a special-purpose computer…A customer order comes into the media server; the server locates the desired information in storage, retrieves it, and sends it downstream to the viewer. It then sends a message to the billing software to charge the customer.” (Van Tassel 2001, p. 290)

Cable and satellite companies in the United States are convinced that VOD is going to be the ‘killer app’ of digital television, a view in part supported by consumer research indicating that up to 55% of all cable consumers are interested in VOD (Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing, 2001). Given that about 80% of American viewers access television via cable or satellite systems, this represents a substantial portion of the market. Moreover, cable companies have invested $50 billion in upgrading their systems for two-way digital traffic, while satellite companies such as DirecTV and EchoStar are rolling out PVR enabled VOD services. Forrester research predicts that US VOD revenues will rise from 0.66 billion in 2002 to over 6.8 billion dollars by 2006. By 2010, 67.7 million US homes will be capable of accessing VOD content (Forrester 2001). In the UK, Kagan World Media research indicates that 42.8% of all UK households will be VOD enabled by 2006 (Kagan World Media 2001).

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Figure 4.39 US Video On Demand Revenues. Source: Forrester 2001.

With the threat of media fragmentation bearing down on the content delivery sector, and the significant costs involved in providing VOD infrastructure – recently claimed to be at least $700US per customer (Online ITV Dictionary 2002) – cable and satellite companies will be eager to generate VOD revenues, reduce customer churn, and extract the maximum dollar from the subscribers it already has. However, despite the promising consumer surveys, Jupiter Research indicates that by 2006, only 22% of VOD enabled households in the United States will actually make use of the service – an ominous warning to the sector that the number of households capable of receiving VOD should not be confused with the number that will actually pay to use the service (Jupiter 2001). Other participants are also dragging their feet, specially content producers, free to air broadcasters, as well as advertisers. Again the PVR capabilities inherent in the VOD model have concerned the major Hollywood studios, fearing that digitally downloaded movies files will pirated, while the major American television networks believe that VOD will dilute their market and undermine their adverting base. The following quote by an anonymous cable execute highlights the real sentiments of the free to air television networks, when it comes to negotiating deals to offer their programs on cable VOD platforms:

“When cable operators say VOD is a great brand extension for a network, it’s mostly BS. Most of them hate it, but we are working with out affiliates and thoughtfully approaching ways for all of us to make money.” (Larson 2002)

Networks and advertisers are also deeply concerned that VOD commercial skipping functions will also destroy the business model of television production and distribution;

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they also cite concerns about the lack of audience-measurement systems, making it difficult to sell program space to advertisers. However, despite these significant obstacles, the major American networks are keeping their options open, conducting a number of experiments with VOD with their cable platform affiliates. NBC plans to offer VOD versions of the Today Show and The NBC Nightly News to Philadelphia’s Comcast customers, while ESPN and A&E are packaging a number of their specialist programming strands into various VOD offerings (Ibid.).

[Update 5/5/03. VOD equipment supplier, SeaChange, has created new software capable of offering ‘DVDs on demand’. VODLink makes it possible for viewers to have DVDs, complete with their original user interfaces and interactive features, sent to their set-top box. This innovative approach to interactive television and video on demand taps into the popularity of DVDs with consumers, as well as opening up the interactive television production process to DVD content producers.]

4.3.4

Internet Television

While it is outside the scope of a paper on broadcast quality television, the emergence of VOD has also raised the promise of Internet delivered television, and consequently needs to be briefly addressed. The often hyped convergence of the Internet and television faces a range of significant challenges, which eventually may be overcome, but for the time being will limit video on the public Internet to sub-broadcast standards. In a proprietary report about media servers, Steve Rose made the following salient point:

“ ….the entire Internet ran successfully for years on a backbone of 45 Mb/second for the entire United States (and much of the rest of the world). Video-on-demand for a small town of 10,000 customers, assuming 20% online (2,000 simultaneous digital compressed video streams), requires a throughput of 8 Gb/second, or about 200 times the Internet backbone for much of its life!” (qtd in “Van Tassel” p. 290)

The problem of Internet scalability was highlighted by the release of the Star Wars Episode One movie trailer, which reportably brought the entire Internet to its knees as millions of people attempted to download it. This goes to the very heart of the problem with the Internet; it is a point-to-point network, delivering content in a two-way one-to-one fashion. Each individual viewer requires a individual stream or copy of the desired program, meaning that one million viewers equates to one million individual streams. At some point the Internet infrastructure reaches its limits. A work around for this problem is a concept known as multi-casting, whereby video is sent to servers closer to the end users and served ‘live’ by the Internet Service Provider. Viewers are required to tune into the multicast at the specific time of the multicast, which for all intents and purposes is not Video-on-demand (Van Tassel p. 150). This is a problem that is compounded by the fact that the Internet is a ‘best efforts’ network, meaning that the video content must travel a complex path through

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multiple interconnected computer networks, all of which process data at differing rates, increasing the likelihood of dropped packets in times of high demand (Whitaker p. 222) While the carrying capacity of the Internet backbone is being continually upgraded to meet the challenge of a broadband world, the ‘last mile’ into the home still represents a significant obstacle to full screen broadcast quality television. In his book, e-Video, an optimistic view of the Internet’s capacity to carry television, Peter Alesso notes that in 1999, only 1.6 million homes had broadband connections, while a whopping 48 million made do with narrowband 56K dialup connections. By 2006, those with broadband connections would increase to 65 million, while dialup connections would be twice that at 135 million connections (Alesso 2000, p. 23). What’s more, these broadband figures include cable connections, which presumably would deliver television utlitising MPEG-2, or dedicated IP Video. Taking this into consideration, the number of users potentially accessing television via the Internet would be in the order of 25 million in 2006. The even poorer broadband penetration rates in the rest of the world, such as Australia, makes the concept of IP delivered television a long way off indeed. It is also worth noting that broadband does not necessarily mean high enough data rates for television, in fact most definitions of broadband do not support sufficient data rates for broadcast quality television. Peter Alesso classifies broadband as data rates of at least 1.5Mbps, while others go even lower with rates of 300K, and still others, such as telecommunication companies, cite anything over 56K as broadband connections. Contrast this with the 4Mbps – 6Mbps data rate of digital standard definition television. While even Alesso’s 1.5Mbps broadband rate would fall short of digital television’s data rate, the concept of delivering television at 128K or 300K is out of the question. And what of High Definition Television, with a data rate of between 15Mbps and 20Mbps? Even Alesso admits that the delivery of HDTV over the Internet will require end to end fibre optical systems, that is, fibre into the home. At $20,000US per mile to install, that could be decades away (Ibid.). Some of the above problems are being overcome with better compression technologies and the deployment of satellite/Internet hybrid systems, where the IP data travels via satellite to local head end video servers or ISPs, bypassing the public Internet labyrinth, resulting in better data delivery performance. However, while Internet video is an interesting experiment, digital broadcast television systems, including terrestrial, satellite and cable, are proven networks capable of delivering high quality video in a reliable fashion to anyone within their transmission footprints. In the case of satellite systems, this is a reach of potentially billions of viewers. At an unreliable 1.5Mbps (or much less), the Internet is simply no match for the highly reliable, 20Mbps digital broadcast systems of terrestrial, satellite and cable.

4.3.5

Datacasting

Datacasting, a word featured prominently in Australia’s digital television legislation, is somewhat difficult to define, as it refers to concepts increasingly cutting across content application categories. However, there appears to be two main elements of datacasting, that

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being the kind of iTV applications already discussed, in addition to services that could be termed data broadcasting. According to Whitaker, the television industry has defined the two major categories of datacasting as: •

Enhanced television – data content related to and synchronised with the video program content. For example, a viewer watching a home improvement program might be able to push a button on the remote control to find out more information about the product being used or where to buy it. Data broadcast – data services not related to the program content. An example would be current traffic conditions, stock market activity, or even subscription services…. (Whitaker 2001 DTV Handbook, p. 57)

The latter definition of data broadcasting can be expanded to include another form of datacasting, one that the author considers ‘true’ datacasting, that being the transmission of “….facsimile data, e-mail, voice mail, pagers, database updates for personal digital assistants or software downloads, including Web pages or IP transport generally” (Miles & Sakai 2001). This raises the prospect of broadcasters utilising a portion of their 20Mbps spectrum to enter the business of wireless data transmission, utilising their wide area footprint and massive bandwidth speed to reach any number of non-TV programming devices, including desktop and hand-held computers. Instead of downloading software to each specific computer, companies would be able to pay broadcasters to update employee or client computer software via DTV datacasting. Other uses may include music downloads or even the ability to updated advertising displays in public spaces. While these kind of datacasting services are being experimented with in the United States and Europe, the Australian focus has been on enhanced television and information service forms of datacasting, most of which are yet to be rolled out by broadcasters. In fact, the Australian legislation defines datacasting rather broadly as “…a service that delivers content in the form of text, data, speech, music or sounds or visual images (or in any form or combination of forms) to persons with appropriate reception equipment, when the delivery of the service uses the broadcasting services bands.” (Department of Communications Information Technology and Arts 1999). However, while the Australia’s datacasting legislation is liberal by definition, it is currently quite restrictive in terms of the services that broadcasters or datacasters are able to offer. Essentially, the Australian Government has passed legislation that effectively prohibits datacasters from becoming ‘back door broadcasters’, by restricting services to:

“…information programs where the sole or dominant purpose is to provide information on products, services and activities; interactive home shopping; banking and bill paying; internet web sites (other than ones designed to carry TV programs); electronic mail; education services; interactive games, and; Parliamentary broadcasts.” (Ibid.)

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The legislation also ensures that datacasters do not offer television like programming, achieved by disallowing the broadcasting of television news, drama, sports, documentary, lifestyle, entertainment or radio programming, though they are allowed to broadcast 10 minute extracts of such programming. Moreover, this programming must not be linked together, but must be selected from a menu by viewers (Ibid.). The intent of this legislation was to inhibit datacasters from becoming de facto broadcasters before 2006, the date set for the possibly entry of new commercial television broadcasters. Given the considerable cost of the digital transition to current broadcasters, it was successfully argued that they should not face any new competition until after this date. Similarly, the legislation was also designed to stop current commercial broadcasters from using their digital spectrum for multi-channeling, which is to be reviewed in 2005. However, in response to the datacasting restrictions, the Government has come under considerable attack from the same group of ‘anti-HDTV’ opponents, in particular the Fairfax and News Limited newspaper media companies, along with the telecommunications and Internet industries. As a consequence, Telstra, News Corp, Fairfax and The Age withdrew from the 2001 Datacasting license auction, forcing the Government to abandon the auction, with the intention of reviewing the legislation. It is important to note that this is not simply a battle between old and new media interests, but between the television and non-television media industries. Australia’s cross media laws prohibit media companies owning both television and print media in a particular market, in the interest of maintaining media diversity of opinion. While the commercial FTA are excluded from entering the newspaper market, the print based Fairfax and News Limited are arguing that they should be able to enter the datacasting sector without restrictions, a proposition that is clearly a drive to enter the television business by stealth. In this climate of positioning, it is not surprising that the newspaper sector has resorted to such a one-sided approach to its reporting of Australia’s digital television and datacasting legislation. In this light, the parallel campaign to abolish the cross media rules, conducted on the basis that editorial freedom would not be further eroded, should possibly serve as a warning that cross media laws are in fact necessary. At this point it is also worth considering the curious position of the Internet industry, one of the most vocal opponents of Australia’s datacasting restrictions. In an interview with the ABC, the Internet Industry Association chairman Patrick Fair made the following statements,

“…that the restrictions are setting back the development of cheap, easy avenues for electronic commerce and will disadvantage the economy.”

“….we’re all becoming e-businesses, and everybody’s got to be familiar with the technology and understand its strategic and commercial importance. And part of that is getting the Internet into homes in Australia as cheaply and efficiently and with as much broadband as possible.”

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“Now, the data casting decision has killed, effectively, one of the primary ways Australians could have got interactive television in the homes cheaply.” (Fair 2000)

These are similar to the sentiments expressed by other members of the ‘anti-DTV’ group, namely that the legislation deprives Australians of e-commerce, information and educational datacasting services. Remarkably, all of these applications are allowed under the datacasting legislation. Moreover, one of the few profitable iTV applications in the UK, iTV games, is also permitted under the legislation. Communication, iTV shopping, advertising, as well as data broadcasting are also applications supported by the legislation. On this basis, the author believes there is sufficient scope to develop datacasting applications within the legislation, though their economic viability may be questionable. However, it must be noted that even the unrestricted iTV regimes in Europe and the UK have also proven unprofitable, so much so that the Spanish government recently abandoned the nation’s digital television transition. This raises the question of whether or not the collection of aspirant broadcasters have the requisite television industry experience to deliver an economically viable broadcasting industry. The prospect of 16 unrestricted datacasting licenses, read additional television broadcasters, in a nation of only 20 million people may in fact prove unsustainable and render irreparable damage on the industry as a whole. There is little evidence elsewhere to suggest otherwise. Moreover, the poor performance of the Internet industry in developing viable business models would seem to disqualify it from offering a viable solution to the television broadcasting industry. The author also notes that there is scope for the Internet industry to work with the current national and commercial broadcasters to develop datacasting solutions, in addition to the television providers outside of the ‘broadcasting service bands’, which are not restricted by the datacasting legislation. These include the satellite and cable pay TV providers Austar, Foxtel and Optus. In fact, almost all of the iTV services in Europe and the UK are provided on pay TV satellite and cable platforms. In conclusion, it is also worth highlighting the recent datacasting auction failure in the United States. These licenses were unrestricted, however, in the end, potential buyers were unable to formulate a viable business model for datacasting services.

[Update 5/5/03. In December 2002, the Australian Government invited interested parties to submit plans to introduce datacasting services on a trial basis. As a consequence, Broadcast Australia intends to begin a datacasting trial within the Sydney metropolitan area during 2003. Broadcast Australia’s Clive Morton stated, “It is our view, that Datacasting offers the potential for new types of services. Services which are not in direct competition with entertainment-based mainstream broadcasting; and which complement broadcasting services and provide additional reason for the audience to convert to digital. Such new services could include teletext, health and lifestyle information, traffic and travel, educational material, internet-over-terrestrial, government based information such as health education services; even a digital terrestrial promotion service! (Morton, 2003).” Morton also noted that the current lack of a standard API for set-top boxes is a major obstacle to digital television take-up in Australia, given that DVB-MHP is yet to be rolled

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out, leaving a confused marketplace of competing API standards. This raises an important, but often neglected, point about the differences in the Australian and British broadcasting environments, with Britain benefiting from the single set-top box platform provided by pay-TV satellite broadcaster BSkyB. Broadcast Australia will trial a terrestrial return channel for interactive services. ]

4.4

Viewer Expectations

While Europe continues at the forefront with iTV implementation, and research studies indicate that 65 million Americans will be iTV users by 2006, there is mounting doubt as to whether consumers actually want to interact with their televisions. Perhaps the first ominous signs of viewer iTV reticence surfaced in a 1994 trial in Orlando Florida, known as the Time Warner Full Service Network project. Essentially a cable ‘walled garden’ iTV service, viewers were offered a number of services on a pay-per-use basis, including VOD, shopping, games, an EPG, as well as postal services. Reported to have cost 100 million dollars to deploy and operate, the project failed to generate a profit and was disbanded in 1997. The project resulted in some interesting findings, the most important indicating that viewers are not willing to pay for iTV services, that iTV applications must be simple, and that VOD is the most popular form of ‘interaction’ (Swedlow 2000). More recent research in the U.S. is even less enthusiastic, in September 2001, Statistical Research Inc revealed that 72% of its 3000 strong sample group were not interested in interacting with their television. What is especially significant about this study is that 142 of the 201 homes included in the study already had interactive television, and demonstrated the same level of disinterest as those without iTV. Again, VOD was cited as useful to viewers, along with EPGs and PVRs, while Internet links, TV based Internet surfing, email, chat and even interactive games, were of limited interest (Peretz 2001). Other studies supporting this sentiment are also beginning to emerge, including a Gartner study in Europe, which revealed that 94% of iTV viewers had not made a single purchase through their television. 35% were not interested and 40% did not understand how to use iTV services (Carton 2002). The underlying implication for all of this viewer feedback is that viewers use the Web for interaction and the television for entertainment and relaxation. This seems to corroborate the ‘lean forward, lean back’ dichotomy, meaning that people use the Internet to lean forward and interact, while television is a passive medium conducive to relaxation. Even some iTV industry participants acknowledge the inherently different characteristics of television and Web like interactivity, such as OpenTV’s Mike Ivanchenko,

“….the more important consideration surrounding the viability of the provision of interactive content is matching the content to the display medium. As an example, just because you can put a web site on a mobile phone with a two bit display, it doesn’t mean it is a good reason to do so or that it will offer attractive content.” (Liddel 2001)

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Ivanchenko goes onto state that the most appropriate place to watch video is on a television, not a PC. Conversely, it is equally inappropriate to consume non-video content via a television screen. It is here that the author believes the crux of the problem lies, namely the poor resolution of standard definition television screens, making any from of interactivity both difficult and uninspiring. This major usability impairment is alluded to by Whitaker when he describes the unsatisfying experience of viewing Web content on a TV,

“ This is because Web content is typically viewed on a computer by a single user positioned at close proximity to the screen, while television is usually watched at far greater distances and often by groups of viewers. This distinction is referred to as the “one-foot vs ten foot experience” …. This implies that when viewing the typical Web page on a TV screen, fonts and graphics are generally too small to be comfortably viewed.” (Whitaker 2001 p. 10)

While there are other usability issues that impact on the iTV experience, such as poor interactive design and cumbersome hand held remote navigation, the author believes that the solution to more successful interactive applications can be found in High Definition Television, a high resolution technology originally designed to meet the needs of the information era. With a picture resolution, scanning format, and relative viewing distance conducive to the viewing of text and graphics, it is curious that the iTV industry has not embraced HDTV as a vital partner in the drive to create a viable interactive television viewing experience. Moreover, the iTV sector needs to concentrate on iTV content that is both appropriate to the television medium, as well as appealing to viewers. To date, this seems to be limited to directly related program enhancements, video-on-demand, time shifting PVRs, and gaming. The positive viewer experiences that a successful rollout of these applications would bring, may in fact encourage viewers to use other iTV applications. The phenomenal growth of DVD movies indicates that consumers are more than willing to interact in the television space, but only when that interaction meets their viewing needs.

[Update 5/5/03. The interactive television industry continues to struggle financially, with content creators, middleware companies, platform operators, and broadcasters recording substantial losses during 2002. In January 2003, Optus abandoned its iTV trial in Sydney, Australia, rumored to have spent $200 million on the venture – its iTV assets sold to cable company Foxtel. Martin Dalgleish, Consumer Multimedia managing director for Optus offered the following reason for abandoning iTV, “The trial indicated that while the technology is robust, the iTV business model requires significant capital investment and significantly higher customer spend to generate an acceptable return. The time is not right for Optus to offer iTV (qtd in “Veldre”, 2003).” Middleware and applications provider, OpenTV, continues to incur significant losses, totaling $802 million in 2002, while Liberate Technologies has been investigated for internal accounting irregularities, and even had its stocked delisted from the NASDAQ for

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failing to meet reporting requirements. Canadian iMagicTV lost $4.6 million in 2002, WorldGate’s revenues fell 42% in the 4th quarter of 2002, totaling 5.3 million for the year. EPG developer Gemstar lurches towards bankruptcy, notching up $6.4 net losses in 2002. ACTV lost $43.6 million. In February 2003, the end of AOLTV was announced, ending America Online’s foray into television. Meanwhile, BSkyB estimates that its IARPU will increase from 15 pounds in 2002 to 30 - 40 pounds by 2005. However, Sky’s overall ARPU for that date is 400 pounds (Swedlow, 2002-03). Many prospective and current iTV content creators currently face a climate of technical complexity, competing platforms, high entry costs, and worst of all, questionable business models. The situation in Australia is aggravated by a limited digital pay-TV infrastructure, essentially only the regional satellite broadcaster Austar. And with a common terrestrial iTV set-top box not yet in the marketplace, the ABC’s forays into iTV, such as A Long Way to the Top, currently reach only 4% of Australian TV households. However, in February 2003, Kim Williams of cable pay-TV provider Foxtel, announced the company’s intention to upgrade its network to digital, enabling greater interactive services via a common cable set-top box. In addition to offering 120 digital channels by the end of 2003, Foxtel intends to launch PVR services in 2004. Moreover, according to Williams, 30 of the 120 channels will be NVOD channels. Foxtel estimates that the cost of the upgrade will be $650AUD million, the bulk of which will go towards subsidising subscriber set-top boxes, approximately $500 per subscriber (Craig, 2003). Foxtel is also involved in negotiations with the free-to-air broadcasters regarding payment for re-transmission of their signals through the cable platform, signaling the adoption of similar strategy to BSkyB in the UK, which now receives 24 million pounds from iTV content providers to access its network, as well as 17 million pounds from both the BBC and the ITV Network for use of its platform. The BBC is currently embroiled in a dispute with BSkyB after its recent decision to depart from the Sky conditional access platform, with Sky threatening to relegate the BBC’s main channels to a less prominent position on the company’s EPG. The BBC hopes to develop a free-to-view satellite market, with the ITV Network voicing similar aspirations. However, it must also be noted that without BSkyB’s substantial investment in subscriber digital set-top boxes, digital and iTV take-up in the UK would be marginal at best. Free to air broadcasters in Australia are therefore possibly justified in feeling nervous about the prospect of Foxtel controlling content delivery platforms to the extent of Sky in the UK.

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CHAPTER 5 – CONTENT ACQUISITION – (17 pages)
(of six chapters)

DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia Swinburne University of Technology

© 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

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CHAPTER FIVE CONTENT ACQUISITION

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CHAPTER 5: CONTENT ACQUISITION
5.1 Reconciling Formats In A Time Of Transition

For most of the Twentieth Century, program content acquisition for film and television was limited to a few tried and tested technologies, at least at the professional level. Feature films and television programs were predominantly shot on film, especially when content acquisition called for location based recording, while studio based television relied on one or two accepted open reel video formats. It was not until the advent of Sony’s Betacam video camcorders in 1981 that technology ushered in an increasingly complicated content acquisition environment. Today, program makers are faced with a plethora of competing formats, some at the cutting edge, while others are decidedly legacy technologies, though still in use in many parts of the world. The situation is further complicated by unfolding revolutionary changes in video and broadcasting technology, including the transition from analogue to digital, as well as standard definition to high definition television. In this precarious production climate, selecting the right acquisition format is now of paramount importance. Arriving at a suitable format should be the result of careful post-production evaluation, analysis of intended delivery format, consideration of the shelf life of the content, as well as technical evaluations where prospective formats are tested in the field against the objectives of the intended program. In most instances, these considerations will have to be balanced with the intended cost of the production. This chapter is dedicated to a brief discussion of the various acquisition formats that a content creator is likely to come across.

5.2

Video Acquisition Formats

Today there are a multitude of videotape formats, growing at an alarming rate by the advent of digital and HDTV production. Until relatively recently, videotape production was entirely an analogue world, from low-end consumer oriented systems, to extremely expensive “broadcast” formats. Analogue technology essentially restricted consumer formats to one or two generations (copying) before picture degradation rendered the image “unwatchable”, while high end professional formats survived four or five generations – an important consideration for editing and general post-production. While digital video technology allows multiple generations without significant picture degradation, the highend analogue formats are still valid acquisition mediums for 4:3 aspect ratio broadcast television. When evaluating both analogue and broadcast formats, it is worth noting that tape size and tape speed often provide an indication of the quality of the format. The wider the tape and

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the faster it moves through the recording mechanism, the better the resulting picture quality. This is because robust recording formats distribute their magnetism over a larger area, rendering them less susceptible to tape dropouts and the rigours of post-production. “Manufacturers, in an effort to pack the most data into the tiniest space, have reduced the detectable magnetism to just a whisker above non-existent. Serious pro users aim for formats with the wider track widths.” (Utz, ?) However, budgetary and practical considerations arise here, for faster and wider tapes result in increased tape consumption, increased costs, and larger more cumbersome recording equipment. While the advent of HD acquisition will ultimately supercede both analogue and digital standard definition formats, their significant legacy value, coupled with their affordable availability, warrants the following discussion of their attributes. For a discussion of HD video acquisition, please refer to Chapter 2.

5.3

Analogue Video Formats

Open Reel Formats Before the arrival of the video cassette, the transport of video resembled that of film or more accurately giant reel to reel audio systems. It was expensive, awkward, and entirely unsuited to field acquisition. The first of these open reel systems was the two-inch quad format introduced by Sony in 1962. Two-inch remained the standard for television broadcast until the late 1970’s, when Sony introduced its open reel successor, One-Inch Type C. One-Inch, with its inherent signal stability derived from a 1” wide tape stock, remained the accepted broadcast format through the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, with digital formats still in the process of replacing it as a program delivery format. It is important to note that even One-Inch was not suited to field acquisition, it was strictly a studio/post-production/transmission format. In the case of non-studio acquisition, other formats such as film and Betacam were employed in the field and later transferred to OneInch for post-production.

3/4 ” U-Matic In 1971, Sony introduced 3/4” U-Matic, the world’s first 3/4” video cassette recorder. At about 250 lines resolution (Jennings, 1997), this format is slightly better than VHS due to its increased tape width. While this is still far below the NTSC 525 lines, or 625 PAL that is considered broadcast quality, 3/4” U-Matic revolutionised ENG news gathering by facilitating the development of portable tape decks that resulted in the discontinuation of 16mm film for such purposes. Its ease of use and relative affordability also encouraged its use as a common distribution format for industrial, educational and even broadcast commercials. U-Matic was subsequently upgraded to U-Matic SP, based on a metal particle tape that increased resolution to approximately 330 lines resolution (Ibid.). In western countries, 3/4” U-Matic has been superceded by the new digital DV formats.

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VHS Introduced by JVC in 1976, it is ironic that the poorest quality videotape format is also the most ubiquitous, reaching international saturation point through the 1980’s and 1990’s as the world’s first practical home video recording system. For the first time ever, consumers could affordably tape programs off-air, shoot their own footage, as well as buy and rent an endless supply of movies and television content released on VHS. In fact, it is no accident that content makers around the world, and particularly Hollywood, embraced this technically limited format; its low 240 lines of horizontal resolution (Jennings, 1997), low cost, and extremely poor copying performance made this the ideal anti-piracy consumer format. While VHS could not be considered a broadcast acquisition format, nor even a very good consumer/industrial acquisition format, its 95% home penetration rate makes VHS the most widely accepted content distribution format (DigitalTelevision, 2002).

Super VHS & Hi8 Introduced by JVC and Sony respectively, S-VHS and Hi8 are essentially high performance versions of consumer VHS and consumer 8mm video, designed to appeal to industrial, educational and low budget program makers seeking an inexpensive near broadcast acquisition format. The approximate resolution of 400 horizontal lines (Jennings, 1997) is achieved by treating the signal differently than the preceding formats, which consolidate the luminance and colour elements of the picture as one. However, S-VHS and Hi8 separate the luminance (brightness) and color, resulting in improved colour rendition. While S-VHS suffers from a bulky design, due to its 1/2” tape size, the 1/4” Hi8 tape is highly susceptible to tape errors and dropouts. In wealthy countries, S-VHS and Hi8 have now been conquered by the new digital DV formats, which offer broadcast quality with the benefits of digital technology, and at a similar price.

Betacam and Betacam SP It was not until 1981, when Sony introduced the Betacam format that the world had its first true broadcast quality portable camcorder. Subsequently upgraded with metal tape in 1986, Betacam SP delivered over 500 lines resolution on a 1/2” tape (Ibid.), making it the international standard for field acquisition. Though prone to dropouts, the 1/2” inch Betacam SP format equaled that of 1” inch open reel videotape, made possible by the new component method of treating the video signal. While previous formats employed composite video, where color information is recorded as one channel, component video separates the signal into three separate channels, one for red, green, and blue. The effect is better image performance, in particular better colour rendition and sharpness. Today, Betacam SP is a widespread acquisition format, particularly in news gathering. According to Sony, more than 350,000 Betacam SP units have been sold worldwide,

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making it the standard against which all other formats are judged (Ibid.). However, with the advent of cheaper professional digital camcorders, Betacam SP’s days are numbered – evidenced by the discontinuation of Betacam SP equipment manufacturing in April 2002.

5.4

Standard Definition Digital Video

During the next few years, professional broadcasting will shift entirely to digital acquisition and post production video formats. This process is already significantly underway, with many broadcasters only accepting program delivery on digital formats, in particular Digital Betacam. However, the move to digital is complicated by a growing body of digital formats, most of which are incompatible with each other. This is compounded by the rapid development of new compression technologies and the impending adoption of high definition television. While it is generally accepted that all of the digital formats, from the consumer DV to the high end professional formats, are more or less broadcast quality, there are demonstrable differences in quality, based on different sampling rates, the degree of compression, tape speeds and size. Once again, as is the case with analogue formats, choosing the right digital format is contingent upon the task at hand, the relative cost, and the intended delivery format. While all prospective formats should be personally tested against the intended purpose, the following technical elements are a starting point.

5.4.1

Compression

Although Sony introduced the world’s first digital format in 1987, known as D-1, followed by D-2 in 1988, digital video production remained prohibitively expensive until introduction of the DV formats almost a decade later. In fact, these large 3/4” digital formats were strictly non-acquisition post-production formats, designed for high end graphics and composting work. These formats (D1, D2, D3 and D5) are large and expensive because they are uncompressed formats, meaning that their signals are free of compression related artifacts or picture flaws – well suited to complex post production. However, uncompressed video means high data rates of around 142-270Mbps, requiring a large tape width and sophisticated data processing hardware. Producing a more affordable format, with a smaller tape size, required the use of compression technology to reduce the data flow and tape consumption (Utz, ?). In other words, compressed video formats discard picture information as the video stream is encoded on the tape, fooling the human eye to accept the picture as flawless. In the case of the DV formats, the compression ratio is 5:1, meaning that four fifths of the data captured by the CCD is thrown away. Although compression technology is advancing rapidly, in general, higher compression ratios translate into poorer picture quality. Digital Betacam generally out performs the DV formats due to its mild 2:1 compression ratio, which becomes apparent in complex post production and chroma keying.

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Another potential problem with compression is a particular format’s ability to encode data at a steady rate, and in realtime. Complex scenes, sports, fast camera movements, and rapidly changing backgrounds can overwhelm the encoder’s ability to process the material quickly enough, resulting in compression artifacts and blockiness. Concatenation may also pose problems for programs requiring complex graphics and compositing, as multigenerational re-compressing can result in compression artifacts, even when the same type of compression is used (Silbergleid and Pescatore, 2000, chapter 4). Again, it is important to evaluate a format based on the needs of a particular program. There is little point in spending huge quantities of money on Digital Betacam camcorders and tape stock for a program requiring straightforward post production, or similarly expecting a DV format to stand up to the rigours of complex special effects and compositing.

5.4.2

Sampling Ratios

The second technical factor impacting on format quality is the colour sampling ratio, the amount of colour samples per second. Most digital formats capture 13.5 million luminance samples per second. To sample the colour at the same sampling rate would require 13.5 million samples for each of the three colours that make up the video signal, clearly an overwhelming amount of data to process (Utz, ?). This would be called a 4:4:4 sampling ratio, i.e. 4 samples of Yellow, Red and Blue. To squeeze the signal on the videotape, each format makes a trade off between the bandwidth and the colour sampling ratio. In the case of digital video standards, a sampling rate of 4:2:2 is considered the right balance, providing enough colour sharpness for chroma keying and graphics compositing, at an acceptable data size. This means that formats that employ 4:2:2, capture two samples of red and blue for every four samples of yellow. Examples of 4:2:2 sampling include Digital Betacam, D-1, D-5, D-9, and DVCPRO50. Given that a higher sampling ratio results in higher data rates, inexpensive formats employ a lower sampling rate of 4:1:1 in NTSC and PAL (DVCPRO), or 4:2:0 in PAL. It has been argued that converting a 4:1:1 signal to 4:2:0 for broadcast in NTSC and PAL, as well as DVD and digital satellite, results in a 4:1:0 sampling ratio, or about twice the colour degradation when 4:2:2 is converted to 4:2:0 (Ibid.). Moreover, Adam Wilt in his technical appraisal of the DV formats, argues that the 4:2:0 sampling rate used in PAL DV and DVCAM is actually less effective than 4:1:1 for multi-generation purposes,

“….while 4:2:0 works well with PAL and SECAM color encoding and broadcasting, interlace already diminishes vertical resolution, and the heavy filtering needed to properly process 4:2:0 images causes noticeable losses; as a result, multigenerational work in 4:2:0 is much more subject to visible degradation than multigenerational work in 4:1:1” (Wilt, 2002).

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He goes on to argue that this is the reason that DVCPRO adopted 4:1:1 even for PAL versions of the format. In conclusion, although 4:1:1/4:2:0 is superior to Betacam SP’s 3:1:1 sampling, the 4:2:2 sampling rate of Digital Betacam, Digital-S, and DVCPRO50, supports better overall colour resolution, better multigenerational performance, as well as better conversion to 4:2:0 for broadcast/DVD. Moreover, the increased detail of 4:2:2 will perform better when upconverted to HDTV.

5.4.3

Bit Rate and Date Rates

Finally, the bit rate and tape speed of a digital format can function as an indicator of quality. While most formats capture at 8 bits per sample, including DV, formats such as Digital Betacam and D-5 support a bit rate of 10 bits per sample, resulting in increased brightness range, smoother pictures and a greater signal to noise ratio (Utz, ?). Moreover, higher data rates translate into higher resolution images, as less compression and more picture information can be passed through the system. While DVCPRO50 (50Mbps) has double the data rate of the other DV formats, Digital Betacam (90Mbps), and D1 (270Mbps) have significantly higher rates of data capture.

5.4.4

Digital Formats

The following are the main digital formats currently in use, though many of them are used solely in post production, and hence are not acquisition formats.

D-1 Introduced by Sony in 1987, D-1 was the world’s first 4:2:2 component digital format, boasting a data rate of 270Mbps of uncompressed video and a bit rate of 8 bits per sample. Exclusively a high end post production format, the extreme cost of D-1 equipment has seen it loose ground to cheaper digital formats, and is now used predominately for post production requiring extensive picture detail, such as complex graphics and compositing.

D-2 The following year Sony/Ampex released a composite version of D-1, called D-2. The compositing of colour with luminance (composite) resulted in a cheaper format, while also reducing the cost of cabling and installation in post production facilities. However, while D-2 also uses a 3/4” tape, and is uncompressed, its composite credentials result in a 4:0:0 sampling rate, in addition to a data rate of 143 Mbps. This 4:0:0 composite signal is adequate for standard post production, but becomes problematic for heavy multigenerational post production work.

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D-3 D-3 is similar to D-2 in that it is a composite, 4:0:0, 8 bit, 143 Mbps format. Where it differs is in its smaller tape width, 1/2” instead of 3/4”. This facilitated the construction of digital camcorders utilising the digital D-3 format. While Panasonic manufactures D-3 camcorders, the format as a whole has been largely eclipsed by component formats.

D-5 Panasonic also offers the D-5 format, probably the highest resolution SDTV format (also used for HDTV, along with D6), due to its 10 bit uncompressed digital signal. This is a 4:2:2, 170Mbps, 1/2” format. Despite its half inch tape size, at present it is still only a high end post production format, suited to heavy graphics and compositing work. The formats D-1 to D-5 are uncompressed formats, resulting in high data rate that are designed for post production facilities. In order to design formats that can be utilised as camera acquisition formats, varying degrees of compression must be introduced. The following formats are compressed digital acquisition formats.

Digital Betacam In 1993 Sony introduced the world’s first component digital camcorder format, called Digital Betacam, it was the natural successor to the company’s highly successful Betacam SP line. Employing a mild 2:1 compression ratio, a 10 bit 90Mbps data rate, and a 4:2:2 sampling ratio, all in a 1/2” cassette, Digital Betacam is easily the highest quality SDTV digital acquisition format currently available. Digital Betacam also benefits from its strong line of camcorders and VCR’s from Sony, along with its acceptance within broadcasting as a defacto digital standard. Digital Betacam, although still costly compared to lower quality formats, seems to be a good choice for general purpose production work, such as ENG news gathering, drama and episodic television. It is probably the only compressed format that is capable of heavy multi-generational post production work.

Digital-S Also known as D-9, Digital-S employs a fairly mild 3:3:1 compression ratio, at a 50Mbps, 8 bit data rate, and a 4:2:2 colour sampling ratio. Both Digital-S, and its close relative DVCPRO50, achieve a mild compression ratio by splitting the compression work between two codecs. Digital-S has the distinction of being based on the VHS cassette transport, making the format downward compatible with analogue VHS. To date, only JVC supports this format, so the television industry has been reluctant to adopt the format (Iisakkila, 2000).

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DVCPRO50 Panasonic has introduced a 4:2:2 version of the popular DVCPRO format. A direct rival to Digital-S, DVCPRO50 also employs a 3:3:1 compression ration, a 50Mbps 8 bit data rate, and 4:2:2 sampling on a 1/2” camcorder tape. Both DVCPRO50 and Digital-S offer a compromise between quality and cost when compared with the more expensive Digital Betacam format. Moreover, the DVCPRO50 production gear is somewhat more portable and lightweight than the Digital-S field equipment. While both DVCPRO 50 and Digital-S (along with Digital Betacam) are high detail formats capable of acceptable up-conversion to HDTV, general industry sentiment is that they are not as robust as Digital Betacam for high-end chroma keying and compositing work.

DV Formats The DV formats are the result of a consortium of 10 companies that jointly pursued their development. Essentially, all the DV formats utilise the same compression technology to record picture detail at a 5:1 compression ratio. This is achieved via a 25Mbps, 8 bit data rate, with both 4:1:1 (NTSC/PAL) and 4:2:0 (PAL) colour sampling ratios. A 1/4” tape size results in extremely lightweight, cost effective camcorders, directed at both the consumer and prosumer (semi-professional applications). DVCPRO (Panasonic) and DVCAM (Sony) are professional extensions of the consumer DV format. Some minor differences include a 4:1:1 sampling ratio for DVCPRO in both NTSC and PAL, increased tape speed, track width, and a metal particle tape for a more robust recording format. DVCAM also offers a faster tape speed and track width than standard DV, though not as much as DVCPRO, and does not use the more robust metal particle tape. This would indicate that while all three formats record at the same resolution, DVCAM, and to a greater extent, DVCPRO, offer better format performance through reduced tape errors.

5.5

Resolution Wars

While the long running battle of film versus videotape resolution continues to rage in industry circles, every new digital format seems to start a similar debate within the video industry itself. For many years Betacam SP was the acquisition standard against which all other video was judged, then came the DV upstarts – cheap, mobile and digital. Usually, the best format in the world is the format that a particular entity has an investment in, and this is often how many in the industry will subjectively evaluate the various video formats. To a certain extent, they are justified, as that have become accustomed to the strengths and weakness of their chosen format and have learned how to maximise its imaging potential. However, as dangerous as it may be, it is possible to rate the formats by evaluating their relative specifications, such as data rates, sampling ratios and compression ratios. Based on

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the computations of this information, Adam Wilt bravely proffers the following format ratings, out of 10:

D-5 (10-bit uncompressed digital) D-1 (8-bit uncompressed digital) Digital Betacam, Ampex DCT D-9 (Digital-S), DVCPRO50 DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, Digital8 MII, Betacam SP 1” Type C 3/4” SP 3/4” U-Matic, Hi8, SVHS Video 8, Betamax VHS EIAJ Type 1, Fisher-Price Pixelvision (Wilt, 2002)

10 9.9 9.7 9.6 9 8.9 8.7 6.5 5 4 3 1

However, while the author mostly agrees with Wilt’s ranking of the formats, it is certainly possible to argue that he has ranked the DV formats above their true performance. This is borne out by an impartial test by the European Broadcasting Union and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the findings of which were released in a 200 page report (SMPTE/EBU, 1998). The tests, carried out at two different viewing distances and at different generations in post-processing, compared a number of formats, including DV. The tests consistently revealed that analogue Betacam SP slightly outperformed DV until post-processing reached the seventh generation, where the digital properties of DV saved the image from severe picture degradation. It is therefore possible to deduce that for most standard television programs, requiring three to four generations in post-production, Betacam SP performs better than DV. While this difference may be extremely slight and even imperceptible to the uncritical eye, it does dispel the commonly held belief that DV, DVCAM and DVCPRO are better than Betacam SP. This is an important point, for the Betacam SP camcorder, lens and CCD is a highly professional piece of equipment, capable of higher quality images and greater image control than most consumer DV cameras. Furthermore, the widespread availability of Betacam SP equipment and its impending obsolescence mean that it is still a format worth considering for the budget conscious producer.

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 Reproduced with the kind permission of the EBU.

Figure 5.1 Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP. 1st generation.

 Reproduced with the kind permission of the EBU.

Figure 5.2 Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP. 4th generation.

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 Reproduced with the kind permission of the EBU.

Figure 5.3 Generation loss of DV and Betacam SP. 7th generation.

Having settled the DV versus Betacam SP question with some hard evidence, the report went on to test the effectiveness of Digital Betacam against 4:2:2 DV based 50Mbps formats (DVCPRO50 and Digital-S), with Betacam SP used as a reference point. After seventh generation post processing and pixel shift, the tests revealed that Digital Betacam was superior to 50 Mbps DV, with both substantially better than analogue Betacam SP. Again, it is important to recognise that differences are slight and will only become an issue with programs requiring complex post-production. Other issues, such as the relative cost of the two formats should be considered against the task at hand.

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 Reproduced with the kind permission of the EBU.

Figure 5.4 Generation loss of DVCPRO 50, Betacam SP, and Digital Betacam 7th generation.

5.6

Lenses

Often overlooked, but equally important as the acquisition format, is the quality of the lens on the front of the camera. Using a high-end expensive acquisition format such as Digital Betacam, or even 35mm film, with a cheap lens is likely to result in poor quality images. Essentially analogue devices, whether shooting in analogue or digital, lenses are carefully crafted pieces of glass that transmit images in the form of light waves to the recording format, which may be film, video tape, or even disk media. The quality of the glass in the lens, and its overall construction, can vary considerably – usually reflected in the price. Faster lenses designed for low light conditions, complex zoom lenses with multiple elements, and recently developed HD lenses made to resolve higher resolutions, can cost significant amounts of money. In the case of the various DV recording formats, the difference in performance between the consumer and professional oriented cameras is usually in the quality of the glass on the front. While both types of camera may incorporate sophisticated three CCD imagers, professional cameras will support detachable/interchangeable high quality lenses, affording field of view flexibility, greater control over depth of field and direct manual focus. Consumer DV cameras are usually limited to lesser quality fixed lenses that provide the videographer with a limited degree of control.

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5.7

The CCD

Another distinct difference between consumer and professional DV cameras is in the quality and sophistication of the CCD, the chip used to convert the analogue signal from the lens into a digital signal that is recorded on the tape stock. Many consumer cameras employ only one CCD chip for imaging, while professional cameras employ three CCDs, one for each of the colour components. This improves sharpness and resolution. In some circumstances, even consumer DV cameras have three CCD imagers, but these are invariably smaller, capturing fewer pixels. However, professional program makers have learned to maximise the quality of consumer DV cameras by paying careful attention to adequate lighting, thereby eliciting the best performance from consumer DV camera chips (Silbergleid and Pescatore, 2000, chapter 3).

5.8

Film Acquisition

Since the advent of video production some 40 years ago, the ‘imminent’ fall of film has been hotly debated between traditional filmmakers and their digital brethren, resulting in some ‘fundamentalist’ positions on both sides of the CCD. For this reason it is difficult to reach agreement on film versus video performance, in particular, their relative dynamic and image resolutions. However, most experienced in shooting both video and film will generally agree that there is little comparison between video and film, with 16mm and 35mm film being vastly superior in terms of resolution and dynamic range. At 4000 pixels of horizontal resolution, and a dynamic range of 1000:1, 35mm film compares favourably to the sub-1000 pixels of horizontal resolution and 100:1 dynamic range of standard definition video (Wallis, 2001). In fact, as discussed in Chapter 2, the birth of HDTV has ushered in a revival of film acquisition formats, as producers seek to manage the transition to a higher resolution viewing environment. While film offers both format longevity and high resolution, an impediment to its use, particularly in non-U.S. productions, has been cost. Eleven minutes of Super16mm film costs approximately $US400 with processing, making it an expensive proposition for programs with high shooting ratios. This includes news, current affairs, even documentaries. At twice the cost of 16mm, 35mm is definitely beyond the reach of all but the most expensive productions, which are usually high-end television commercials and feature films. Up until the late 70’s, even documentaries, current affairs and news were shot on 16mm film, but the advent of portable video cameras and rising costs saw most outside broadcasting and acquisition shift to magnetic video tape. However, it is important to note that nature documentaries, with their emphasis on high image quality, slow motion photography and content longevity are still predominately shot on Super16mm, and in some cases 35mm. Most feature films will continue to be shot on 35mm film, though HD production is destined to make inroads here, while 80% of primetime American television programming (less news) is originated on film (Silbergleid and Pescatore, 2000, chapter 3). Budgetary considerations create a somewhat different picture in Australia, with most feature films still shot in 35mm, with Super16mm a cheaper option for a blowup to a 35mm

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theatrical print. While mini-series still tend to be shot on Super16mm in Australia, many are now shot on tape, and just about all episodic television is shot on tape.

5.9

Future Proof Film

Another important factor in the debate surrounding film versus videotape is the need for producers to ‘future proof’ their productions and thereby maximise the longevity of their content. This is an important production consideration, given the shift to high definition broadcasts over the next five to ten years. Until relatively recently (the last year or two), all of the preceding video formats have been fixed to the 4:3 television aspect ratio, which has dominated television since its inception. However, the new 16:9 aspect ratio of both standard definition (SDTV) and high definition (HDTV) digital television, along with the significantly increased resolution of HDTV, will limit the future use of this material on emerging formats. For this reason alone, film, particularly 35mm film with its high resolving capacity, is “…the only medium capable of crossing most of the boundaries that exist in program delivery” (Weidemann, ?). Both now, and in the future. Unlike standard definition video (even if shot in 16:9), film is of sufficient resolving power to be transferred to any future digital format, whether that may be SDTV, HDTV, or some other technology with a resolution beyond HDTV, such as 4K computer imagery. This touches upon the inherent freedom of film as a physical format, a format that is essentially a series of photographic images that pass through a film/projection gate at 24/25 frames per second. Recovering these images is simply a matter of adjusting the aspect ratio and frame rate of the film transport. Video on the other hand, even HDTV, by its very nature is limited to a fixed aspect ratio, bit rate, resolution, scan method, and compression algorithm (Ibid.). While it is probable that a future digital acquisition format will eventually surpass film in performance, 35mm is still the most future proof format available to motion picture content creators. Given that American producers are generally protecting the future of their programs by shooting film or in some cases HD, it is curious that Australian filmmakers are continuing to produce the overwhelming majority of their content in the standard definition format, albeit in 16:9 aspect ratio. With Australia moving to HDTV by 2008, and the United States by 2006, producers should be considering the implications of consigning their content to a lifespan of four to six years. Another consideration for future proofing of motion picture content is the physical medium itself. Made in 1909, it is still possible to view America’s first narrative film, The Birth of a Nation, not to mention thousands of films shot through the 20’s 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Film is a physical medium capable of lasting hundreds of years, even as much as 500 years for black and white emulsions. Contrast this with video, a medium recorded on highly unstable magnetic tape that in most circumstances will only last 10 to 15 years before it begins to break down. Tales of television producers returning to program archives only to find magnetic tapes in various stages of physical decay are salient reminders of the ephemeral nature of video technology. Moreover, locating functioning obsolete video playback machines is also potentially problematic. On the other hand, content originated on film is

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likely continue generating income for content creators for many years into the future. Expect see ‘I Love Lucy’ on HDTV and any other technology invented in the years to come.

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CHAPTER 6 – CONCLUSION – (22 pages)
(of six chapters)

DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia Swinburne University of Technology

© 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird Email: jrbird@swin.edu.au

CHAPTER SIX CONCLUSION

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CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION
6.1 Conclusion

While the transition to digital television represents a broadcasting environment complicated by a raft of competing technologies, both digital and legacy analogue, it also represents a promising new direction in how content is created and delivered to the viewer. Some of these enhancements include improved signal reception, a widescreen aspect ratio, surround sound, multiview cameras, closed captioning, as well as the capacity to utilise the spectrum efficiencies inherent in the digital signal to provide greater choice through multichanneling. In the case of the new internationally endorsed 16:9 widescreen format, program producers will need to optimise content creation for both widescreen as well as the 4:3 legacy aspect ratio. This will require new approaches to content capture and a review of existing production processes. The prospect of multi-channeling is potentially more problematic, in that it challenges the prevailing commercial, political and viewer paradigms that have underpinned broadcasting since its inception. While the kind of multi-channel choice found in Europe would seemingly benefit both broadcasters and viewers, this paper has revealed a linkage between content choice and viewer fragmentation, resulting in diminished broadcaster revenues and greater content expenditures. The questionable business model of multi-channel choice is further highlighted by some high profile collapses in the European and British broadcasting industries in recent months. Moreover, multi-channel broadcasters still in the market have comprehensively failed to generate adequate revenues to cover their costs. It is in this light that a highly vocal campaign to permit multi-channeling in Australia should examined; the risks are substantial. High Definition television, a sub class of digital television, is perhaps the most promising digital television offering, potentially the greatest advancement in television since the advent of colour in the 1970’s. This paper has indicated that the dramatically improved picture resolution of HDTV will not only afford ‘cinema like’ viewing experiences, but also provide a platform for the true convergence of information, interactivity and television, providing a range of opportunities in multimedia related applications. To a large extent, the transition to HDTV will be facilitated by a range of new home theater display technologies, including HDTV plasma and CRT screens, along with DLP/LCD HDTV projection systems. Contrary to popular opinion, HDTV display technology is now moving to the mainstream, with consumer HDTV displays falling rapidly in price as manufacturing approaches critical mass. While Europe has largely spurned HDTV, prices in the United States and Australia for HDTV CRT displays have fallen to under $3000 Australian dollars, a level comparable to standard definition digital televisions.

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Moreover, while HDTV confusion still bedevils consumer electronics retailers and consumers alike, the research also revealed that HDTV is beginning to generate traction in the U.S. market, with the take up rate of digital television now rivaling that of colour television. The increasing availability of HDTV content and programming has also been instrumental in generating HDTV acceptance, with the leading American broadcasters transmitting approximately 20 percent of their programming in HD. Recent announcements by the Hollywood studios to release HDTV content on Digital VHS package media should drive take up even further. These promising developments seem to contradict the proclamations of what can be described as Australia’s anti-HDTV lobby group, indicating that much of this opposition is based on a lack of understanding, as well as vested business interests. Again, as in the case of multi-channeling, this opposition can be viewed as a wider campaign conducted by non-television media interests to gain access to Australia’s television broadcasting spectrum. In addition to HDTV and improved viewing experiences, digital television has also ushered in a comprehensive range of new interactive television applications, including applications dedicated to program enhancements, information services, t-commerce, games, interactive advertising, communications, in addition to personalised television through video-ondemand and digital personal video recorders. With these exciting new applications, viewers are able to move beyond the traditionally passive medium of television, to participate in program content, conduct transactions, gather information and generally tailor content consumption to suit their own needs. The research conducted in writing this paper revealed that some interactive television applications are more appealing to viewers, in particular, direct program enhancements, participatory quiz shows, voting, dedicated interactive games, sports programming enhancements, and betting. Time shifting technologies, such as video-on-demand and personal video recorders have also been consistently cited by viewers as the most appealing aspects of digital television, although the underlying business models of these applications have yet to be adequately tested. In fact, similar to the problems faced by multi-channeling, interactive television has yet to establish viable commercial foundations, with gambling at present accounting for the lion’s share of interactive revenue in the most developed iTV markets. Other applications, such as information based services and t-commerce have, in general, failed to meet expectations, although t-commerce tends to generate viewer interest when directly connected with programming, in particular impulse buying of program merchandise. Research has also revealed promising viewer responses to interactive advertising applications, though it remains to be seen whether viewers maintain their enthusiasm over the longer term, should such applications become a common feature of television. The advent of user controlled advertising, along with video-on-demand and time shifting video recorders, represents a potential paradigm shift in the transmission and consumption of television content, disrupting the flow of content, and undermining the broadcasting business models that are predicated on sufficient viewer consolidation to generate adequate advertising revenues. The author maintains that somewhere in the television chain, someone must pay for quality content. It is perhaps for these reasons that traditional commercial broadcasters have resisted the push to roll out costly time shifting and

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interactive applications, given that they may in fact seriously undermine profitability. However, with many cable and satellite pay TV providers aggressively developing these applications, in an effort to reduce customer churn, it is perhaps only a matter of time before traditional broadcasters are forced to address the challenge. The ultimate determining factor in whether interactive applications play a central role in television programming, or are relegated to an inconsequential periphery position, is the needs and wishes of television viewers themselves. Initial data indicates that viewers are less than enthusiastic about interacting with their television sets, seemingly supporting the argument that television is best suited to the passive consumption of linear content. However, as this paper has revealed, viewers do demonstrate an interest in interactive applications that compliment the emotional and immediate nature of the television medium. Combined with the more involving viewing experience of High Definition television, and an increasing awareness among viewers of the capabilities of interactive applications, it is certainly possible to argue that interactive television will overcome its initial problems to deliver a successful form of television. Finally, it is into this uncertain and rapidly evolving technological environment that program content creators must continue to operate, producing content for today, as well as for tomorrow. To that end, program makers should maximise the life span of their content by adopting high definition content acquisition, in particular digital HD, film, or at the very least, the newly emerging EDTV 24p format.

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OpenTV (2002). Applications. [Brochure]. Retrieved May 5, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.opentv.com/solutions/applications/ Panasonic (2001). Panasonic Icon Case Study. [Powerpoint presentation]. Retrieved May 25, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.broadbandbananas.com/panasonic.pps Peretz, M (2001). Study: iTV Battles Almost Complete Lack of Interest. Sept. 5. INT Media Group. Retrieved May 20, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/8161_878511 Prikios, K (2001). Finding the Art in HDTV. June 25. Broadcasting and Cable. Productivity Commission (2000). Broadcasting Inquiry Report. March 3. Productivity Commission, Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved March 12, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/broadcst/finalreport/ Richards, D (1999). Australian Subscription and Television and Radio Association submission to options paper: Multichannelling by the National Broadcasters (ABC and SBS) Review, Dept. of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Australian Subscription and Television and Radio Association. Retrieved April 2, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dcita.gov.au/nsapigraphics/?MIval=dca_dispdoc&pathid=%2fsubs%2fmultichannel%2findex%2ehtml Silbergleid, M & Pescatore, M (2000) (Ed) The Guide to Digital Television. Retrieved on March 5, from the World Wide Web: http://www.digitaltelevision.com/publish/dtvbook Sharp, C (1999). SBS letter to Dept. Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Submission on Review of Digital Television Format Standards. Retrieved April 10, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dcita.gov.au/text_welcome.html Shapiro, G (2002). DTV Update. High Definition Highlights. DTV Update, April 2002. CEA. Shulze, J (2001). Seven Takes Bat to HDTV. December 10. The Australian. Retrieved from EBSCO online database on April 12, 2002. Sony (2001) Arrival of a 24-Frame Progressive Scan HDTV Production System Implications for Program Origination. Brochure. Sony Electronics. P18. Sony FAQ (2001). FAQ’s for the HDW-F900. September. [Brochure]. Sony Electronics Inc. SMPTE/EBU (1998). Task Force for Harmonized Standards for the Exchange of Program Material as Bitstreams Final Report: Analyses and Results. Annex C. Geneva, Switzerland: SMPTE/ECU 1988. Retrieved on March 25, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ebu.ch/trev_tf-final-report.pdf

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Smith, A (2002). BBC hijacks TiVo Recorders, May 24. The USA Register. Retrieved May 19, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/54/25436.html Swedlow, T (2000). Interactive Enhanced Television: A Historical and Critical Perspective. ITVT. Retrieved March 23, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.itvt.com/etvwhitepaper.html Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.45 April 12, 2002. Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.41 April 18, 2002. Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.45 April 21, 2002. Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.45 April 29, 2002 Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.45 May 1, 2002. Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.46 May 5, 2002. Swedlow, Tracy (2002). Tracy’s Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.50 May 27, 2002. TasmanAV (2002). [Sales Brochure]. [PDF file]. Retrieved April 20, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.tasmanav.com.au/pages/promotionframe.html Time Warner Cable (2002). Web site. Retrieved April 29, 2002 from the World Wide Web http://www.twcentralflorida.com/services/HDTV/ Thomas, G (2001). Metadata for Enhanced Electronic Program Guides. The Business of Digital Television, March 2001. Retrieved April 19, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.digitaltelevision.com/business/index.shtml Utz, P (?) Web site. Digital VCR Formats. Retrieved on March 29, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://videoexpert.home.att.net/artic3/256dvcr.htm Van Tassel, J (2001). Digital TV Over Broadband. Woburn, MA: Focal Press/ButterworthHeinemann. Visionik (2001). Visionik. [Brochure]. ROFL. Retrieved May 22, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://visionik.com/enhancedtv/cases/rofl/rofl.htm

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Wallis, T (2001) Web site. The Difference Between Film & Digital Video. Interview with Wallis, Tim, chief technical officer, Kodak Entertainment Division, September. Retrieved on April 4, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/news/wallis.shtml Weidemann, S (?). Film Formats and HDTV: A case for the Future Proof Standard. Henninger Media Services. Retrieved March 20, 2002 from the World Wide Web http://www.henninger.com/library/hdtvfilm/home.html Wilt, A (1998). EBU’s Evaluation of DV Formats, November 30. Retrieved March 10, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.adamwilt.com/EBU-DV.html Wilt, A (2002). DV, DVCAM, & DVCPRO formats. Retrieved March 10, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.adamwilt.com/DV.html Wink (2001). The Power of Interactive TV Today. Wink Interactive Advertising. Retrieved May 25, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.accessconferences.com Whitaker, Jerry (2001). Interactive Television Demystified. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Whitaker, Jerry (2001). DTV Handbook: The Revolution in Digital Video. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill White, C (2002). Digital Acquisition: Technology in Transition. The Big Move From Film to Video. Digital Media Online. Retrieved May 10, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://production.digitalmedianet.com/2002/03_mar/features/cw_digitalfilm.htm White, C NAB (2002). NAB 2002 Wrap-Up. Summary of Last weeks show, with daily reports compiled. Retrieved May 15, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.digitalproducer.com/2002/04_apr/features/04_15/cw_nab_wrap2002.htm Xinhua News Agency (2001). China Develops PDP High Definition TV Monitor. Xinhua News Agency, November 11. Retrieved April 8, 2002 from EBSCO online database.

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May 2003 References
Alston DCITA (2002). HDTV election commitments to be implemented, Media Release, October 15, 2002. Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Broadbandbananas (Mar 2003). Broadband Bananas News electronic newsletter, March 3, 2003, Broadband Bananas. Broadbandbananas (April 2003). Broadband Bananas News electronic newsletter, April 2, 2003, Broadband Bananas. Brown, K (2003). DVR Subs Spend More Tube Time, 10/3/2003, Vol. 24 Issue 10, Multichannel News. CEA (2003). Sales of Digital Video Products on the Rise During First Quarter of 2003, 14/4/2003, CEA. Retrieved on April 12, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ce.org/press_room/default.asp Craig, D (2003). Foxtel Outlines Plans, 17 February 2003. Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association. Retrieved on April 20, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.aimia.com.au CT’s Pipeline/PBI Media (2003). HDTV: Rollin’, Rollin’ Rollin’ We’ve been talking a lot about HDTV on these pages over the last few years, 14/1/2003. PBI Media. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.digitalbroadcasting.com/content/news/ DBA (April 2003). DBA Information Bulletin, April-May 2003. Digital Broadcasting Australia. Retrieved on April 20, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.dba.org.au/newsletter DBA (May 2003). First Quarter Widescreen Sales Up 94%. May, 2, 2003, DBA. Retrieved on May 3, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.dba.org.au DBA Schedule (April 2003). Digital Broadcasting Australia Widescreen HD Program Listing for April 2003, DBA. Retrieved on April 25, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.widescreentv.info/ Daily Mail (April 2003). Big Losses but Picture is Brighter for NTL, 1/4/2003, Daily Mail. Daily Mail (2003). Telewest Struggles as Value Dwindles, 28/3/2003, Daily Mail.

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DTV Group (2003). Spain Calls on Industry to Foster DTT, 26/02/2003, Digital TV Group. Retrieved on April 8, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.dtg.org.uk/news/world/-spain_foster_dtt.htm Elrich, D (2003). HDTV’s Killer App, HDTV Guide, Spring 2003. CEA. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ce.org/publications/books_references/ dtv_guide/hdtv_archives.asp Forrester, C (2002). Europe’s Time Bomb, November 2002, p.1 TVB Europe. Economist, The (2003). Sky’s the Limit, 1/2/2003, Vol. 366 Issue 8309, p57, The Economist. Economist, The (Jan 2003). Heave ho, TiVo!, 8/2/2003, Vol. 366 Issue 8310, p60, The Economist. Gibson, K (2002). Will TiVo Revolutionize Television Viewing? Dec 5, 2002, CNN Headline News. Retrieved on April 20, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/12/04/hln.connect.tivo/index.html Griffiths, N (2002). HDTV in 15% of US Homes by 2008, October 2002, Strategy Analytics. Retrieved on April 9, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.strategyanalytics.com/press/PR00025.htm HDTV Info Guide (2003). High Definition Television Defined. Web site. Retrieved on May 1, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.hdtvinfoport.com/high-definitiontelevision.html In-Stat/MDR (2003). New Day Has Dawned For DTV Sets, March 10, 2003. In-Stat MDR Market Alerts. Retrieved on April 12, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.instat.com/newmk.asp?ID=565 JVC (2003). JVC Introduces Ground Breaking Hand0Held Professional HD Camcorder, April 7, 2003. JVC America. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://pro.jvc.com/prof/Attributes/press_res.jsp?model_id=MDL101394&feature_id=08 Lieberman, D (2003). Taking a DVR for a Spin, 31/3/2003, USA Today. McMahon/Flanagan (2001). Mining TV’s Interactive Potential, 21/5/2001, Vol. 22 Issue 21, Multichannel News. Merson, G (2003). HDTV Insider News, March/April 2003. The Perfect Vision. Merson, G (2003).High Definition Sources and Programming, March/April 2003. The Perfect Vision. Morton, C (2003). Datacasting in Australia, A paper delivered to the Australian Broadcasting Summit, February 2003.

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NAB (2003). NAB 2003, Mar 1, 2003, Millimeter. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.millimeter.com People’s Daily (2003). China Plans Own Digital TV Standard, 15/4/03. The People’s Daily. Retrieved on April 5, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200101/ 31/eng20010131_61347.html Pescatore, M (2003). How Many More Milestones? – HD Should Be Reality, Not Novelty, Jan 14, 2003, 2-PopHD. Retrieved on April 14, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.2-pophd.com/articles/article_63.shtml Renaud, J (2000). A Status report on HDTV in Europe, May 2000, Vol. 9, Issue 5, TVB Europe. Shapiro, G (CEA, 2003) HDTV – “I’ll Take It!”, HDTV Guide, Spring 2003. CEA. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ce.org/publications/books_references/ dtv_guide/hdtv_archives.asp Snider, M (2002) Digital VHS Teams with HDTV for a Picture that Comes Alive, 27/8/2002, USA Today. Retrieved on September 1, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/techreviews/products/ 2002-08-27-digital-recorder_x.htm Swedlow, T (Nov 2002). Tracy Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.78 November 4, 2002. Swedlow, T (April 2003). Tracy Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 5.02 April 17, 2003. Swedlow, T (Feb 2003). Tracy Swedlow’s InteractiveTV Today electronic newsletter. Issue 4.95 February 18, 2003. Taub, E (2003). HDTV’s Acceptance Picks Up Pace, March 31, 2003. The New York Times. Ulrich, J (2003). HDTV Viewers: The New “Upscale” Demo, Mar 5, 2003, UEMedia. Retrieved on April 15, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.uemedia.com/CPC/printer_5735.shtm Veldre, D (2003). Time Not Right for iTV, Says Optus, 12 February 2003, B&T Marketing & Media. Retrieved on April 20, 2003, from the World Wide Web: http://www.bandt.com.au/articles/dc/0c0141dc.asp

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Figure and Table Sources

Table 3.1 Silbergleid, M & Pescatore, M (2000) Table 3.2 Standards Australia (1999).

Figure 2.1 Bird, J (2002). Figure 2.2 Productivity Commission, Commonwealth of Australia (2000). Figure 3.1. Current Concepts Home Automation Specialists (2002) Web site. Home Theater Systems. Retrieved on June 6, from the World Wide Web: http://www.currentconceptshas.com/Hometheater/Home_Theater_Image_2/home_theater_i mage_2.html. Figure 3.2 Cordero, R/Home Theatre Magazine (2001) Web site. Marantz PD5010D 50Inch Plasma HD Monitor. Home Theater Magazine. Retrieved on June 6, from the World Wide Web: http://www.hometheatermag.com Figure 3.3 Home Theatre Magazine (2001) Web site. Hitachi 43UWX10B 43-Inch Plasma HD Monitor. Retrieved on June 6, from the World Wide Web: http://www.hometheatermag.com Figure 3.4 CEA (2002) Corporate Report 2001 – 2002. Consumer Electronics Association. P.9 Figure 3.5 Sony (2002). Figure 3.6 Lemac (2002). Figure 3.7 Sony (2001) Figure 3.8 Lemac (2002). Figure 3.8b JVC (2003). Figure 3.9 Bird, J (2002). Measurement source: American Cinematographers Manual, 3rd Edition (2001). Figure 4.1 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.2 BroadbandBananas (2002).

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Figure 4.3 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.4 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.5 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.6 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.7 Liberate (2002) Web site. http://solutions.liberate.com/demo/communication/page1.html Figure 4.8 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.9 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.10 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.11 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.12 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.13 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.14 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.15 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.16 BBC World Cup soccer 2002. Pay TV & Satellite News 31/05/2002. Electronic Newsletter. Figure 4.17 BBC World Cup 2002. Pay TV & Satellite News 31/05/2002. Electronic Newsletter. Figure 4.18 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.19 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.20 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.21 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.22 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.23 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.24 BroadbandBananas (2002).

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Figure 4.25 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.26 Forrester/iTV Marketer (2001) In Video on Demand Projected Revenues in the United States; Impact upon consumer rental habits, iTV Marketer 2001-2002 http://www.itvmarketer.com/deployments/vod_deployments.htm Figure 4.27 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.28 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.29 Access Conferences/Chippendale, M and Leach, R (2001). Figure 4.30 eMarketer (2002) Web page. In Is iTV Gambling a Bet Worth Taking? ITV Gambling Revenues in Europe , March 13. Source Datamonitor 2001. Retrieved May 20, 2002 from World Wide Web: http://www.entrepreneur.com/Your_Business/YB_SegArticle/0,4621,298124,00.htm Figure 4.30b BroadbandBananas (2003). Figure 4.31 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.32 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.33 Access Conferences/Chippendale, M and Leach, R (2001). Figure 4.34 BroadbandBananas (2002). Figure 4.35. BroadbandBananas (2001). Figure 4.36 BroadbandBananas (2001). Figure 4.37 UEC (2002) Web page. Product Guide. Retrieved March 15, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.uec.co.za/products/body.htm Figure 4.38 TiVo (2002) Figure 4.39 Forrester/iTV Marketer (2001) http://www.itvmarketer.com/deployments/vod_deployments.htm Figure 5.1 European Broadcasting Union (1998), qtd in Wilt (1998) Figure 5.2 European Broadcasting Union (1998), qtd in Wilt (1998) Figure 5.3 European Broadcasting Union, qtd in Wilt (1998) Figure 5.4 European Broadcasting Union (1998), qtd in Wilt (1998)

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DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTING:
Perspectives on the Future

Jeffrey Bird
A minor thesis for Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Multimedia

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Thank you to BroadbandBananas for permitting the use of numerous iTV screendshots in this thesis. Also thanks to a number of other organisations/individuals for providing visual material, including: Sony; the European Broadcasting Union; Ray Cordero/Home Theatre Magazine; CEA; Lemac; iTV Marketer; eMarketer; Access Conferences; UEC; and TiVo.

SUMMARY Today the international broadcasting community is on the verge of a revolution in television content creation and transmission, brought about by a range of stunning digital technologies. Digital television, High Definition Television, 24p High Definition production, as well as Interactive TV are all technologies that will have far reaching consequences for the television industry, affecting program producers, broadcasting entities, advertisers, electronics manufacturers, as well as television viewers. It is a technological environment complicated by legacy issues, competing acquisition and transmission formats, revolutionary new methods of content creation and delivery, as well as a whole host of emerging content consumption structures that threaten the established order of television communication. The situation is further complicated by differing approaches to digital television implementation in different parts of the world, with Europe and the United States charting their own digital directions, developing their own niches of expertise, while also exposing themselves to a range of unique creative and commercial risks. Surrounded by rapid technological change, untried business models, and uncertain viewer expectations, countries such as Australia attempt to navigate their own course in what is fundamentally uncharted territory. It is also an environment that is politically charged, with a range of media interests, both established and aspiring broadcasters, staking out their territory in the early days of the digital television landscape. It is within these difficult technological, commercial, and political parameters that content program creators must now operate - creating content for today as well as for tomorrow. Chapter Two of the paper will provide readers with a basic understanding of both analogue and digital television technology, including a discussion of aspect ratios, bandwidth, scanning modes and the various competing international transmission formats. This chapter will also provide the reader with a brief overview of the potential features that digital television affords, together with a

discussion of multi-channeling and its impact on viewer fragmentation and established broadcasting business models. Chapter Three will build on the knowledge gathered in chapter 2, introducing the reader to High Definition Television broadcasting, detailing its underlying technology, how it differs from standard definition television, as well as the differing HDTV transmission formats. This chapter will also investigate the latest developments in HDTV display technology, the movement to a mass HDTV consumer market, while addressing viewer choice and expectation. Further discussion will focus on the opposition to HDTV and its implementation in various broadcasting markets. The chapter will conclude with an overview the new high definition acquisition formats. Chapter Four will first seek to define Interactive Television, before providing a detailed exploration of the various Interactive Television applications currently in the marketplace. This exploration will also seek to evaluate the relative success of these applications, providing an insight into viewer expectations, as well as viable business models. The chapter will also include a discussion of Australia's controversial Datacasting legislation. Chapter Five provides content producers with an overview of the various film and video acquisitions formats that they are likely to confront during the transition to digital television, highlighting the need to protect content assets from technological obsolescence.

ABOUT THE WRITER JEFF BIRD Jeff Bird is a film-maker, writer and multimedia creator. After completing a Bachelor's degree in Media Studies (Film & TV) at Deakin University, Jeff has spent the last 10 years working in the film and television industries, both in Australia and overseas. This included a number of years working on commercials in Scandinavia as a camera assistant, and a stint in Washington DC working for a documentary production company. Jeff has worked in many different capacities, including producing, directing, editing, cinematography, and writing. his documentary film, 'Black Gold, Kindred Spirits', which was screened on ABC TV, won a number of awards, including the Gold Award for best documentary at the Worldfest Charleston International Film Festival. Recently, in addition to completing a Masters degree in Multimedia at Swinburne University, he has worked closely with December Films as a writer/director developing a number of documentary projects.

Swinburne University of Technology July, 2002 (Updated 2003) © 2002, 2003 Jeffrey Bird

PO Box 455, Cheltenham, Victoria 3192, Australia.
jeffbird@compuserve.com