Saturday, May 14, 2011

How will ABS-CBN play the digital terrestrial world in the coming days?

Okay, you’ve heard the largest TV network in the Philippines revolutionizing the digital terrestrial TV this coming few months; we’re going to tackle all the possibilities of the network may pursue into.

Market. So, broadcast industry is a big market, from advertisers, to viewers, etc. As a broadcast conglomerate, they may take in the first place the content being show in the market. What they gonna do with this is to have their own premium channels, for sure.

Conditional access system is a system wherein a what-they-call a “smart card” is inserted onto receivers to be granted an access with those scrambled channels. One of the finest cable companies in the country, Sky Cable, is using this kind of system for digital cable, which they can program each card to function whether the so-called Digibox would recognize the card and access only those channels which the subscriber has bought.

And how about the free TV? CAS may potentially be used by ABS-CBN; having their premium channels offered for the first time, which they tagged “ONLY” for their digital TV broadcast (does this mean they will not abide the NTC’s popular “must-carry” rule or what?). They mean five, as in five digital TV premium channels for the family; one for mom, one for dad, another for the grown-up, and two for the kids (which one of them is Knowledge Channel, for sure).

Yes, they’re going to sell those decoder/set-top boxes for digital free TV, soon. In fact, we’re looking forward into that scenario of those ABS-CBN DTV Digiboxes having smart cards or any encryption system or whatsoever. Still, the Implementing Rules and Regulation body has the final word for those premium channels being catered by the networks going digital. Would this create a new TV network war in the future? Let the time machine tell.

Mobility. ABS-CBN Head Mr. Miguel Mercado was once asked during our interview in the ABS-CBN News Channel’s Future Perfect about going mobile. Actually, this one was the very most questionable for the network whether they’re also providing 1-seg signals throughout their DTV transition, as if most of the people who have the guts to scan those digital channels for now have their own 1-seg tuners from mobile phones from Japan, to those of USB-powered TV tuners.

1-seg capability of ISDB-T is one feature in which the transmission side can offer mobile services from portable to handheld devices in one system. During those DTV issues, the European DVB-T offers no mobile transmission of TV signals, instead, they require another standard, which is DVB-H, made for “H-handheld”. 1-seg quality is very robust, since it uses, technically speaking, QPSK modulation, which gives lower bitrate and bandwidth but easy to receive even in those places which are heavily-shielded.

This mobile TV standard originated in Japan, boosted numbers of mobile TV subscribers since it was launched years ago. Japanese people, being mobile most of the time, well-loved 1-seg very much, as well as other features of ISDB-T. From mobile phones, to USB TV tuners, portable TV devices, and even PlayStation Portable (PSP) TV tuners are sold within Japan’s territory, in support with their digital TV migration in the coming months (24 July, 2011).

Filipinos, on the contrary, are ready to switch themselves being mobile nowadays, since mobile phones capable of high-speed Internet and other multimedia applications are now being sold into commercial markets. Those high-end gadgets still do not have television tuners, since manufacturers of those phones have a different digital TV standard to be used (to mention US and Korea use ATSC and the whole Europe goes DVB-T/H and DVB-T2). What you’ll see are those tagged as KIRF (Keepin’ It Real Fake) China phone brands do have TV tuners, which still offered in analog TV quality.

Moreover, buses running on speedy roads sometimes tune in to television networks. Most of the time, rival GMA Network is the very most tuned TV network among buses in the Metro, since they have the technical capabilities of being received by TV sets even in running automobiles.

Okay, so back in the conversation with Mr. Mercado, we asked if ABS also aims to go mobile with 1-seg for us to share the beauty of mobile TV within phone, but he reminded us with the hated word “Soon”. “The network prioritize the viewers with fixed TV sets first, but we’re also in the way of going mobile”. That answer was very simple, yet complicated to analyse. Still, ABS-CBN is in the market of selling everything to the people, and hey! They’re in the business scene, so expect that. Most of the TV viewers are at home, rather than those WWWTV (Walking While Watching TV); presume that the network focuses on them at lead.

Technicalities. ISDB-T standard is based on band segmentation, where 13 segments are allocated for the 6-megahertz TV bandwidth of a network. Sounds quirky?

As far as we know, Philippines will be using the hybrid standard of ISDB-T of Japan and the SBTVD-T standard of Brazil. With the Brazilian flavour, our country will be utilizing the MPEG-4 AVC video standard, with AAC as its audio correspondence. With these standards, our digital TV system will utilize the spectrum in the most efficient way the broadcasters can transmit in digital. Having a maximum numbers of 2 high definition, 8 standard definition and a 1-seg system, TV network can mix-and-match those to offer the viewers’ more than they expect to.

On their previous launch, the network is planned to release ABS-CBN, Studio 23 and new 5 disgusting premium DTV channels in their bouquet, so with the DTV Digibox that comes with a special card for the special channels. Doing the math, ABS is targeted to have 7 channels, for sure in Standard Definition (SD) quality (since the last time I talked to sources is, ABS-CBN getting ready for high definition TV, but not today).

Not today, then the possibility of having CAS, ABS-CBN is mostly seen to use two separate frequencies for digital TV. Previously, ABS-CBN holds the Channel 50 and 51 on the UHF band with their test on the defunct DVB-T. It is much quite impossible to place those seven channels in one frequency, having those five labelled as premium. And to think of having ABS-CBN and Studio 23 into one frequency, they can go HD soon as they have the full contents being in high definition. Remember, most of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs shows, and even primetime soap operas are in high definition downscaled-to-analog-TV broadcast; they’re much even ready for it for the next three to five years, as soon as the receiving public is also ready too.

Demand. “Rigodon” in Philippine TV just happened this early 2011, as GMA Network and TV5 unveiled their own news and information channels on free TV, par with the ABS-CBN News Channel’s reign for 15 years in the coax. With this, ABS-CBN is expected to have its own news channel soon in the airwaves too, via DTV.

To satisfy the needs of the demand of the people, ABS-CBN should matter into what it is happening now. Okay, so we got Aksyon TV and GMA News TV on the limelight. The latter, was rated for its one-of-a-kind simulcasts of important events in the past few days, made ABS-CBN rang its bell to create something special.

With their offering, five premium channels are expected to be seen on the boob-tube soon. Touted one for each family member, we believe ABS-CBN is in the good works for this. For a scoop, the network is slated to release the following. For dads, it will going to be a news channel, for sure it’s not ANC, because of it’s also being premium on Sky Cable’s line-up, and again people, don’t expect it to be ANC, please. Well, DZMM Teleradyo’s one, too.

For the youth and kids, with a total of three, one is Knowledge Channel from CPI, two of them would be an anime TV network pitted against its own Hero TV in the cable and another clueless, maybe Myx. And for moms, they can have somewhat like TV Chefs, or Velvet, or Lifestyle.

ABS is planning for something new, something again to push through in the works. Also in the conversation with Mr. Mercado, they are in the plan to have those five, new channels, which are not yet seen by any people on TV (Err, is it extraordinary or what?). But since Knowledge Channel expressed its part to be one of those five, maybe the remaining four will be new. Again, the demand of the people should be criticized and be not left out for them to succeed with it.

Competition. The most liked topic by a network-war veteran. With the current system, ABS almost slapped by its major competitor due to some specific issues mattered for a TV broadcast. Garnering 16 years of leading from its revitalization on the late 80’s, ABS-CBN loses the crown being number one for some reasons.

Content-wise, yes. But now ABS-CBN continues to serve people with those originals rather than canned ones. And also don’t expect it to be tackled most here, okay? Tech-blabbering, ABS-CBN’s frequency houses the lowest among TV bandwidth on 54 MHz With their introduction of their Millennium Transmitter on the year that can be read between the lines, ABS’s spot still under the campfire. Remember, GMA’s Tower of Power reminds us the word “Power” at almost 800 feet high now, being at high-band VHF on 174 MHz, no doubt GMA would capture the hearts of the television sets, even only a strip of wire being connected as a cute TV antenna.

The network also ventured into having the Baron antenna into the market, which is very suited for ABS’ reception, but still, the network failed to top again with the technology they introduced. People are still clamouring for the clear and crisp signal before.
The technology word goes into the year 2006 for digital TV broadcast; ABS-CBN was the very first TV network to try. They’re in the midst of having a lighted bulb onto their minds while telling themselves “Ah! We’ve got the ultimate solution!” Along with the NTC’s first draft of having a digital TV standard, ABS-CBN uses DVB-T, along with GEMNET, who dared to switch off its analog channel to be used for DTV.

So much for the history, the competition we’re talking here is almost four-squared. Okay so we’ve got their own box. On the press release, the box also receives those of other channels’ digital TV signals over-the-air with NBN and GEM TV. Don’t dare play dirty with not receiving GMA, TV5 and other channels going digital next. But ABS assures, they’re in the track of NTC’s “must-carry”.

What’s dirty is the CAS. Will it be unified for all TV networks or separately being propounded by each networks’ standard of smart cards? The thing is, “I have my own box with no smart card insertion; will I receive those premium channels of yours?” Definitely, no. Then what if other networks also offer their own DTV boxes, too? Sounds complicated in the pocket, isn’t it?

Positively speaking, TV content (back in the topic) is now being neglected on digital free TV, since the qualities of channel now depends on the modulation scheme and the bitrate it transmits on free air. What’s important is the reception should not be staggered, as for DTV would have a “with-signal, no-signal” degradation; TV networks may compete with the best transmission solutions and antenna system designs and positions for them to have a better coverage of people watching them digitally.

 Note: The views and opinions of Admin-1 do not reflect the whole DTV Pilipinas.

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