The Wacky World of DTTV
Dec 1, 2002 12:00 PM, NATHANIEL HECHT
DEADLINES. WE KNOW ABOUT THOSE IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD, and they are fast approaching for the TV broadcast community when it comes to the big conversion from analog to digital. This move from analog to digital is becoming one of the most difficult and comprehensive transitions of technology in the history of media. The only question that remains is: will they meet the deadline of returning the analog spectrum to the government by 2006? According to a study published by Allied Business, the number of households worldwide will total over 87 million and will result in $32.5 billion in revenues from consumer digital TV (DTV) equipment sales by the time full rollout is expected in 2006. This is truly explosive growth, with a rate of 100 percent annually when calculated from the fledgling $1.6 billion in sales in 2000 with only 1.3 million households worldwide in 2000.
The U.S. rollout of digital terrestrial TV (DTTV) has been stymied with problems of all sorts, from delayed equipment shipments to problems receiving signals on even DTV-ready sets, and we are not out of the woods yet. More than 200 U.S. stations broadcast some DTV content, with more to come. In the rest of the world, DTTV seems to be meeting with little difficulty, mostly because of the early adoption of the digital video broadcast (DVB) group's standard for terrestrial transmissions, with the first early adopter of a DVB-based DTTV network being the United Kingdom way back in November 1998. Shortly after that, Sweden, Spain, and Australia rolled out their DVB-standard DTTV networks. That early adoption allowed the cost of digital tuners to drop significantly, which helps all markets.
But who will actually win this digital race? TV broadcasters are competing with the burgeoning and rapidly emerging broadband market, which may have some delivery problems now but is likely to surpass the technological difficulties it is experiencing in the near future. Digital cable is already available for a price, and the race to the finish line seems to be the proverbial last mile, namely the household. According to a study by Parks Associates, 30 million households will have broadband service by 2004, with more than half of them as networked homes able to share media and other content at will. Additionally, as many as 48 percent of all new homes will be prewired with structural wiring solutions by the end of 2004, also reported by Parks. Consumers are catching on to the technological advantages of structured wiring solutions, and most of them are planning for a future with digital content delivery. Could the TV broadcasters end up as just another channel of content on the digital pathway? Consider this: the market for multimedia connectivity and home entertainment networks is projected to grow from the benchmark of $150 million in consumer sales as reported in 2000 to a startling $3.4 billion in 2004. The writing is on the wall; home entertainment networking capability will drive far beyond the PC in these homes.
So where does this leave sound and video contractors? The wave I've been talking about for the past five years is starting its crest. The extension to the business market for these technologies is easy to predict: businesses have all the money for fancy new technology and cutting-edge entertainment values. The growth is there for the business-to-business contractor, but the unrestrained growth is in all the houses and homesteads; it is such a huge untapped market. Don't ignore the writing on the wall. The residential market is ripe for the professional sound and video contractor and should be a part of your regular business. If you can't follow the security people in the door, follow the broadband video guys (or gals, as the case may be).