SMPTE 2013: Broadcast Media Exchange Can Transform Local-TV Business

The annual SMPTE Technical Conference always provides plenty of fodder for those thinking about the future of broadcast technologies, but, occasionally, it offers some thoughts on the future of the broadcast business and ways that traditional over-the-air broadcasters can transform it.

“Broadcasters are being eaten alive in the advertising world, as we have not made the case for the value we bring,” said Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

His thought-provoking discussion focused on how next-generation broadcasting is requiring over-the-air TV stations to rethink their current operations. Should TV stations remain islands across the country? Or is there a way to come together and make it possible for national advertisers who increasingly turn to the Internet for local ads or to national TV and cable networks for delivering ads across a large number of stations without having to make hundreds of individual deals?

Simply put, how can broadcasters use technologies to align station operations with business opportunities provided on mobile devices, broadband delivery, and more?

The answer is the Broadcast Media Exchange (BMX), which involves creating an intelligent network that can tie TV stations together.

“In LTE,” Aitken explained, “it is not magic that content follows you from one place to the next or your subscriptions are available wherever you may be located.

In an IP-centric world, he added, broadcasters are an island by virtue of a station and operation that feeds content and information out to viewers.

“But there is no means of engagement,” he noted, “and the next-generation broadcasting platform needs to be IP-centric.”

For example, a “home-subscriber server” could maintain a database of users within a TV station’s market and tie that to an authentication authorization system. Tying multiple station databases together would allow ad buyers to reach millions of viewers on a local level in a way that is possible only in today’s IP world.

“There can be a roaming capability across the nation of an industry that is working together and leveraging strength and unity,” said Aitken. “We have the responsibility to provide a free and clear program channel, so it is a matter of clearly defining spectrum authorization and getting the authority and right constructs to separate the broadcaster from any regulatory infringements.”

Decision-makers on Madison Avenue, he added, are increasingly turning to the Internet to take the guesswork out of hitting the demographics they want.

Broadcasters can do the same, Aitken added: “We can create an industry out of our separate cottages. And, with the depth and reach of broadcast spectrum to deliver data, you can imagine that such a move would provide a boost to broadcasting, as we have the delivery mechanism to go across multiple platforms. We can be seen as a medium people go to, not just an industry that distributes bits on a national basis.”

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