Broadcasters: Maintain the Wow Factor on HDTV

There are a growing number of broadcasters looking at transmitting in “full HDTV” (at 1080p 50-60hz) in order to differentiate their services over those from cable and in particular IPTV-based services.
“I am aware of several broadcasters who want to do it and I suspect there will be such deployments in the next couple of years,” says Tim Sheppard, Snr business & solutions development manager, at Cisco. Sheppard, along with Tandberg Television’s Noel Matthews and Harris Corp’s John Mailhot, were taking part in Rapid TV News’ Round Table on compression and distribution.

Sheppard added: “I believe we will see a small number of satellite players adopting 1080p at 50 or 60 fps but the first step is in production and contribution [of programming]. Today, there is very little space or production capability in 1080p-50/60 fps so this means a quite serious set of changes in production workflow, archive, editing and then the contribution side of things. There might well be some press announcements as far as distribution is concerned but [1080p] is not going to be a big business for the near future.”

Tandberg’s Noel Matthews (VP business development) said that while acquisition and the archiving of 1080p content was very important, there were other factors which would influence whether a broadcaster could launch a true 50/60 fps service. “Let’s not forget that for DTH services the number of [legacy] STBs out there is huge and I think we’re going to have to see changes in terms of contribution and studio workflow before we see a broadcast service.”

However, Harris Corp’s John Mailhot (GM, video networking grp) said that broadcasters were already preparing for 1080p ‘true HD’ services, and that the 1080p/25 fps services from Echostar and DirecTV were but the first step. “We are already seeing in the infrastructure business in the US where, when anybody is buying a new large scale router for their studio, it is now taken as a line item requirement that it will handle 3Gb. So this investment is already taking place right up to equipment for frame synchronisation and now 3Gb seems to be the capacity standard. In many cases, station bosses are making the investment as a ‘hedge’ against what might be required in the future.”

“There may be no concrete plans just at the moment but certainly for anyone building basic infrastructure they are making their facility 3Gb-capable. Beyond that, we will see this high-end image capture in football trucks and similar OBs, which will be especially needed if there’s an international feed going out for re-purposing. Take the SuperBowl where the producers know there’s going to be a very large 50 Hz audience as well as a 60 Hz audience. For them to adopt 1080p helps quite a bit.”

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News