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Artikkelin kirjoitti Kimmo

Terrestrial television soon becoming obsolete

4. Elokuuta 2017 · Ei Kommenttia

Who really needs an aerial television antenna? Who likes to re-tune the channels over and over again? Why Finnish taxpayers are benefitting private foreign investors? Why television does not evolve like mobile apps in Finland? Tämä kirjoitus on julkaistu myös suomeksi.

That’s no news to anybody, that you can watch television from your mobile phone. But the big thing that chrystallized to me this summer is that who bothers to view aerial television at all? In other words, what reception method or network do I need or want to use, to consume my daily television? Screen sharing, ie. getting the picture to the big screen is so trivial these days, that the biggest obstacle of mobile television consumption has vanished.

It was when we had our 4-week sailing trip around Finnish archipelago. Changing location daily and trying to receive aerial television (DVB-T/T2). Each time at the new location you need to re-tune your receiver. Trying to receive aerial television in a marina, where tens or hundreds of metal masts confuse the reception does not make the TV experience nice. Also the channel bouquet varies from place to place (not all the muxes are available everywhere, nor carry same channels), so after some nights you decide to read a book instead. Not mentioning, that usually when I would have needed to get my news and weather dosage, the time was over the midnight, not really a time for the linear newscasts.

We’ve had these challenges every summer, so this spring I brought the vacant AppleTV (older 3. gen) box to the boat. We also added a LTE-router, that offers the mobile internet as a WLAN access point to all our devices. That really changed the way how we consume television. That’s because I realized, that during the whole four week period, we were at least 3G coverage area. And 3G is just enough to deliver the television you need. Always with the best possible quality, typically in HD (terrestrial TV is mostly still SD). No re-tuning, no hickups or glitches in the experience. Getting the image to the big screen via AirPlay is soooo eazy (Chromecast does it’s job too).

But still. Looking this from the user experience point of view, the remote controller is a winner in zapping linear channels. Even though Telia TV is perhaps the best shot with it’s widest content offering, it’s still far from a complete TV-solution. Especially watching linear content is made too complex. It’s also very hard to grasp the big picture of the whole offering, since due to the bizarre content rights, some channels are live streamed, some only via nPVR recording and some aren’t there at all. To make things even more complicated, some channels offer a VOD library, some only nPVR record ability, some neither. For some platforms certain features are missing (like movie rentals from UI in iOS) and so on. How do you communicate this to the end-user and make the UI easy as with a nine-inch-nail? Well, you don’t, at least not very well. For some reason the case is typically most complicated with the domestic Finnish content and foreign material is easier to find. Howcome? For domestic channels and content you also still need to use multiple applications like Katsomo, Areena, Ruutu and so on. Not all the content is aggregated in such portals like Telia TV. Why?

During the summer months, there has been again some media coverage and discussions of the privatizing projects of the formerly state owned assets, like the terrestrial transmission network. With the current setting (DVB-T network sold to a private investor), significant expenses are paid yearly from the tax collected budget just to cover the transmission costs. The original selling price is paid back about every 3 years or so. One could argue that how good of a deal this really was? With the fact that DVB-T in the current form is not so important nor lucrative (currently lots of free un-sold capacity), you start to think that do we really need this? Because the practical answer is no, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see that the terrestrial television delivery network as such would be formulated to Finnish legislation as a mandatory infrastructure, keeping the natural monopoly rolling. Taxmoney never runs out.

It’s inevitable that the OTT applications will evolve to the same level of user-friendliness as with telly and beyond. Many players, companies, aggregators and individuals are working constantly to improve their apps. With hardware based terrestrial setup it’s impossible to compete. When doing software based development (like with apps) it’s easy to switch technologies, setups, UIs and all. This is not the case with hardware based terrestrial delivery chain. For sure we will get to hear a lot of pissed arguments from the public when the current MPEG2 based DVB-T transmission is switched off 2020. MPEG2 until 2020! Phew. For OTT service development the technology itself has not been an issue for a long time. The biggest obstacles hindering development are the ancient business models with the content rights. There’s still lots of room for innovation in TV and Finland with the domestic Finnish content should be a perfect place to pave the way to the future. But it isn’t. Seems to be easier to make a deal with Hollywood folks.

Of course 3G or better networks are not available in every rural backyard. DVB-T/T2 also contributes and plays a role in certain exceptional cases, like the crisis announcements. But for these instances a single country-wide SFN (Single Frequency Network) network would be sufficient. With it’s capacity, the public broadcaster’s obligations and the crisis aspect would be fully covered. In a SFN network you don’t need to constantly re-tune, the offering would be the same regardless of the area and the mobile reception would also be easier. Since this would be tax-payed and a part of national security, the network should be domestically owned and transparently operated. A non-profit operation, that is. Making a national security issue a natural monopoly with foreign beneficiaries has been and still is a very bad idea. That only leads to situations like currently with the Finnish Post – the level of turn-over is maintained in a rapidly declining business by raising the unit-prices. How open market is that?

I wan’t to remind that everything in this post present my own private thoughts only, based on 25-year experience in Finnish broadcast business and technology. I do not represent any organization nor institution with this blog, just my five cents.

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