Monday, October 19, 2009

Perspective: ASTC Mobile DTV standard = CDN disruptor?

[Update: To read a bit more perspective on this, here's an article I wrote for a few minutes ago]

Returning to the US from StreamingMedia Europe, where I moderated the show's final panel with CDNs discussing HD and scalability, I'm spending the day catching up on news. The most important news I've read today may have a bit of an impact on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) space:

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) announced the final tally in member voting for the A/153 Mobile Digital Television (DTV) standard has passed with "overwhelming support" on its first vote.

"This milestone ushers in the new era of digital television broadcasting," said Paul Karpowicz, NAB Television Board Chairman and President of Meredith Broadcast Group, as part of the ATSC press release. "This gives local TV stations and networks new opportunities to reach viewers on the go. This will introduce the power of local broadcasting to a new generation of viewers and provide all-important emergency alert, local news and other programming to consumers across the nation."

The other programming mentioned in the above quote, in my opinion, may lead to a bit of left-field competition between the broadcasters and the CDNs, especially in dense-population markets beyond the US broadcast market.

Over the last two decades, living between the worlds of broadcasting, motion picture, the telcos and streaming, I've learned to track these standards decisions to gauge the true sense of where one industry may overlap another.

Here's one tell about the potential disruptor that this standard allows: it's using the same H.264 and AAC compressions across an IP network, something the Chairman of the ATSC alludes to in his comments.

"The ATSC Mobile DTV standard is flexible and robust, enabling a range of services business models that create new opportunities for broadcasters, device makers and consumers," said ATSC Chairman Glenn Reitmeier. "It is particularly noteworthy that ATSC Mobile utilizes Internet Protocol (IP), which will enable broadcast services to be easily integrated with wireless broadband consumer devices and applications, further reinforcing the significant role of terrestrial television broadcasting in the media landscape for decades to come."

In other words, ATSC gets to put a multicast receiver on a chip and deliver via IP, with enough bandwidth overhead to also do on-demand and progressive download, at least according to the standard draft announced on September 10, 2009, the same date as the IBC international broadcasting show.

 This standard may make for some strange alliances between CDNs, wireless providers and others, since this "over-the-air-broadcast" standard can be used to deliver not just live content to massive audiences in the home, in the form of other non-TV devices, but  also to deliver on-demand or progressive download content to mobile and handheld devices that may not then need a service agreement with the wireless service provider.

In other words, expect a mixing up of A/153 and DVB and CDN and three-letter broadcasters, the latter of whom had been written off for dead but not have a very decent overlay network to fill in (or supersede) the gaps in wireless coverage.

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