Free Terrestrial TV May End – The model that has been established for over 60 years of regular TV stations broadcasting their content for free and making their money from on-air commercials may soon be ending. Cable and dish-provided TV, with endless choice of cable channels, as well as the growing access to video via the Internet, has been taking away the ad dollars from free network TV. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are hurting and looking for new sources of revenue to pay for their programming. Local TV stations are also moving away from letting services such as Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Systems carry their broadcasts for free or a very low fee. Cable channels make most of their money charging these pay-TV providers a monthly fee per subscriber, and the growing number of cable channels has given cable a big piece of the ad pie. They have been generally safe from the recession, while broadcast stations and networks are struggling. Fox – who had a 54% drop in their broadcast operation – is currently fighting with Time Warner Cable, and unless Fox gets higher fees for their broadcasts, their channels could go dark for Time Warner subscribers.
The networks and local stations are just trying to increase their income the same way the cable channels do – by charging pay-TV providers a monthly fee per subscriber. Sometime in the future it’s possible terrestrial TV stations will turn off their transmitters and operate as do the cable channels, meaning the end of free TV. So there’s a movement to get it while we still can for free. Some already wanted to turn off their transmitters when the FCC and the government were planning the HDTV transition. These stations argued that only a tiny percentage of viewers were still using antennas for free over-the-air (OTA) TV, and it wasn’t worth their huge expense to install new HD transmitters just for them. Actually, that national figure is 11.5%, but it is increasing gradually because of the higher monthly charges of the cable and satellite services in this recession. And when they pass on the new charges from the networks and stations, these fees will increase even further. No wonder many TV viewers are going back to antennas (and in the process receiving a higher-resolution HD signal than from any Pay-TV providers). In fact, here in Oregon 17.3% watch their TV OTA, and in the main county in which Portland is situated, the figure is over 25%. Thus a cutting-off of OTA TV would be especially painful.
Avatar Likely to Be the First Blu-ray 3D – The standards that have just been approved to bring view of full 1080p HD 3D movies to home TVs will be announced and discussed at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is felt that 3D blockbuster Avatar will be one of the first films released in the new format. It will require either a new 3D Blu-ray player or a possible firmware update to some existing players that will allow 3D playback. Displays, however, must be one of the 3D-Ready models from certain makers – otherwise a new 3D HDTV display will have to be purchased. Sales of Blu-ray discs jumped over 200% last month vs. a year ago, due to dramatic drops in the cost of some players and most titles now being available for under $20, plus a number of sales bringing it even lower. There are of course some complaints that viewers still need to wear special 3D glasses in order to have the 3D experience – either the popular polarized ones or the more advanced shuttered glasses. However, if the image quality is as excellent as we just experienced at an IMAX 3D showing of Avatar with polarized glasses, I can’t imagine many people would object to the glasses. The 3D animated feature Monsters vs. Aliens just made $59 million box office in its first weekend, and there are well over 30 other theatrical 3D features in production at the moment.