View Full Version : Why Fox is not interested in HDTV..very interesting

01-23-2002, 07:06 PM
This is part of HDTV magazine today. It is from the sample issue that you do not have to pay for.
It is a great read if you have the $35US (one time) and it is printed every day.

If I should not have posted this mods please remove.

HDTV Magazine S.I.
January 22, 2002

Editor's Note:

We recently spoke with Dave Arland of Thomson Multimedia regarding this
year's Super Bowl and other issues. Herewith is the interview.

HDTV Magazine:

Mr. Arland, could you let our readers know your position at Thomson

Dave Arland:

I'm Director of Public and Trade Relations for Thomson.

HDTV Magazine:

Speak to our readers about the Super Bowl, if you would please.

Dave Arland:

We are very excited about a real new opportunity for viewers interested
in digital widescreen television. RCA is partnering with FOX Sports - we
will be presenting the Super Bowl in a new format that FOX has called
FOX Widescreen. For anyone who follows digital television, it is one of
the formats that is part of the ATSC standard. It is a 480 progressive
broadcast that will be seen in widescreen format.

As a company, FOX does not believe in High Definition television. They
feel, from a corporate standpoint, that they can do more with
multicasting and with 480p. I think reasonable people might disagree
about their approach, but, we are willing to try this with them.

Thomson broadcast cameras will be used on the field as well in other
broadcast locations, they will be using several of our Super Slow Motion
digital units, which are brand new. They will be doing a first in the
Super Bowl - which is to telecast the game, both digital and analog,
through the same cameras. How they are going to do that is to start with
a widescreen 16x9 camera field and then trim the edges for the analog

The advantage for the digital viewer at home is that they will see the
exact telecast in widescreen that everyone else is seeing, which means -
the 'A' list announcers, the graphics and music, slow motion and all of
the things viewers are accustomed to with football.

A week and a half ago when we announced this at the Consumer Electronics
Show, FOX knew of about eighteen affiliates who were prepared to carry
this signal. The good news is, since CES, they have had a number of
other markets confirm that they will be carrying the broadcast. I think
they are up to twenty seven markets, reaching just over half the
country's population with the FOX widescreen 480p telecast.

I think this is a good demonstration of the flexibility of our ATSC
standard. I would encourage everyone who owns an HDTV to tune in and
give it a try. Like everyone else, I will be sitting on my couch
watching and seeing what it looks like.

HDTV Magazine:

Are the top markets included in the affiliates who will be carrying the

Dave Arland:

Yes - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco,
Boston, Dallas, Washington, D.C. - all of these cities will be carrying
this broadcast. The three biggest cities that won't have it are probably
Pittsburgh, Orlando and Baltimore. Most of the major markets will have
the broadcast.

HDTV Magazine:

Many of our readers would question why the industry would decide to go
with 480p, there is much concern about moving backward. Could you speak
to our readers on that issue?

Dave Arland:

I think that is a legitimate concern. We have the same concern. We sell
High Definition television monitors, receivers and sets. However, until
we have seen it, I would encourage people to reserve judgement on this.
Let's have a look and see what happens.

It could be, 480p widescreen will be an ideal format for capturing a
sporting event. It could be that this will permit, someday, multiple
views of the Super Bowl. Maybe we will see a 480p widescreen main
program and with other things done with the remaining megabits.

I think this is FOX's interest. They would like to reserve, if you will,
their right to parse their signal in other ways. I don't think it
signals a shift, or a change at all, in what broadcasters will be doing.
Rather, FOX is branding their version of 480p which, again, they call
FOX Widescreen. They are giving it a shot. Even for them, this is new
territory. They have never done a widescreen, live, sporting event.

HDTV Magazine:

What motivated Thomson to become involved as a sponsor?

Dave Arland:

A couple of things. One, Thomson broadcast equipment is being used by
FOX to actually produce the telecast. There was a natural tie there.
Secondly, we're very interested in finding a vehicle for the RCA brand.
RCA is the number one name in television in the analog environment. We
want to continue building on that success as we make this transition to

Obviously, anyone who has had an HDTV for a while knows that we have
sponsored the 'Final Four' on CBS, in HDTV, a couple of years ago. Last
year's Super Bowl was brought to viewers in high definition television
by RCA. This is nothing new to us, in terms of event sponsorship. We see
this as another opportunity to bring the message of digital television
and widescreen television. This time around its not in high definition
television, but, I think we ought to have a look. We might be surprised
at what we see.

HDTV Magazine:

The Super Bowl is the showcase television event of the year. HDNet, as
you know, will be carrying 1080i NBA, Lakers versus Mavericks, on Super
Sunday. People will then be able to see for themselves the difference
between 1080i and 480p. What are your thoughts on this?

Dave Arland:

I think the difference is important, but, it's probably less important
than most of your readers will admit, frankly. Obviously, there is a
difference between 480 progressive and 1080i. That's the reason there
are 18 different ways to leave your lover in terms of ATSC.

I have to say right here that I absolutely salute what Mark Cuban and
his team have been doing with HDNet. They have been, as you have pointed
out, the savior of this technology, on the highest possible use, in terms
of quality. Thank God for HDNet. It has really allowed, particularly at
retail, a lot more people to see what is possible with HDTV.

I had friends over at my house last night. I used HDNet to show them
HDTV. At that particular moment there was not any high definition on the
networks. HDNet is a very important service.

Not everyone wants a Cadillac. Some people buy Buicks, some people buy
Cavaliers, some people Hondas. Some people buy Cadillacs. This doesn't
signal a change for us in high definition. That is still a very big part
of what we do. We're still selling what is probably the most popular
direct view in the country - our 38" $2499 set - the 38310, which has
been very successful for us.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, we announced a new line of RCA and RCA
Scenium ( http://www.rcascenium.com/ ) HDTV monitors and receivers.
There are fourteen or fifteen different new models that will be coming
out this year. All of them 1080i capable, of course. I don't want people to
misinterpret this as suddenly we are backing down and producing EDTV

Rather, I think this is an innovative, interesting way for a major
broadcaster to make use of the spectrum. We ought to have a look at it
and see what we think - knowing that a better quality image is possible.
I want to reserve judgement until we have a chance to see it for
ourselves. Most of the 480p that I have seen looks pretty good, to be
honest with you. Even in our own engineering community there are people
on both sides of this issue.

HDTV Magazine:

What sort of reaction have you had from both the HDTV owner, and from
within the industry?

Dave Arland.

Good question. Polarized - that is the answer to that. There are very,
very strong opinions on both sides. On the one hand, there are the
purists - frankly I am probably in that category too, who love HDTV - who
have one at home and have been clamoring for more content who, perhaps
might interpret this, until they get under the hood on it, as some sort
of massive backward step.

On the other hand, there are those I have talked to, involving
government, those who campaigned for the flexibility in the standard,
obviously FOX, even consumers who have written to me in the last week
saying - "Hey, I want to check this out, can I get it over cable, over
satellite, I'm in Baltimore, what do I do?"

Unfortunately, the FOX affiliate in Baltimore is not on the air yet with
digital. I hope they will be by May, when they are required to be.

We are about to go through a big, I think, boost in digital television
this Spring. The number of stations signing on the air will climb from
today's total of about 240 to, even under the worst estimates, more than
500 by May 1st. Optimistically, it could triple, but, worst case, double
the number of terrestrial broadcast stations on the air in the next few
months. That, I think, will mean more attention paid by the cable
industry to digital tv, to high definition tv, to ATSC tv - not just the
cable industry's version of digital television - more of the same
channels and poor quality.

HDTV Magazine:

Can you give us any inkling to forthcoming HDTV programming Thomson will
be involved with?

Dave Arland:

Not specifics in terms of programming. The networks are becoming more
savvy in their dealings with all of us, whether it's Mitsubishi, Zenith,
Thomson, Panasonic, Samsung or whatever. All of us are being hit pretty
regularly for sponsorship opportunities and the like. Obviously there is
a big one hanging out there - the 'Final Four' - we don't really know
what will happen with that yet. CBS has the rights to that.

I think, generally in the industry, there are a few trends. One is, you
are probably going to continue to see these major events brought to you
in digital, or digital high definition, by the consumer electronics
companies. The second trend is the addition of more terrestrial
stations. The third trend is the beginnings of digital connectivity for
these products.

We announced, for example, at CES, the addition of copy protected
interfaces to our entire HDTV lineup for 2002. That is being done purely
in anticipation of the arrival of new set-top receivers for both
satellite and cable that will require copy protected interfaces. In some
cases for recording purposes, in other cases, for display. We saw this
in varying degrees at CES from other companies as well.

What that means is, hopefully, this is one of the keys that will unlock
more content being sent in high definition form, since that has been the
big worry of Hollywood to date. We are always the engine on this train,
we are never the caboose. We have to do things first because programmers
will not release content until, initially, they knew there were sets out
there. In this second wave of product, they are going to be looking for
copy protected interfaces.

I don't think the readers of HDTV Magazine have much to worry about in
the short-term though, in terms of suddenly a switch being flipped and
everyone migrating to a different method. I say that because virtually
every new cable box, that carries HDTV, that is coming out has the
analog YPbPr connections for hi def tv. That's customers, for example,
in the Philadelphia area who have signed up for the Comcast service.
This is going to be a dual-track transition.

But, eventually, we all have to face the reality that Hollywood has seen
what happened with Napster, which happened after the ATSC standard. They
don't want the same thing happening in video.

HDTV Magazine:

What is the time frame on this? Will the early adopters be frozen out?
Ten years, five years, three years, or, do we even know?

Dave Arland:

We don't know. In part because this is still fluid. Even though the
cable and satellite industries have said "we expect next generation
displays to have copy protected interfaces" and various acronyms. We
don't know what's going to happen with efforts by broadcasters to
protect over the air content. When I'm talking about a copy protected
interface on a new product, I'm talking about a product that will hook
to a cable system, or satellite network.

For the moment, ATSC, over the air, is free over the air broadcasting.
The question people need to monitor is to what extent should ATSC over
the air ever be scrambled, or protected. Then you do get into legacy
questions. To more directly answer your question, people who have an
over the air receiver today are not going to be stranded.

The question becomes, at what point does a cable operator require you to
have this kind of connection in order to plug into their network? I
would say that is probably five, or six years from now - roughly about
the time that it is time to replace, or upgrade those first sets. A lot
of this assumes, of course, that the cable industry will make the
migration that they said they will make. We have not seen much evidence
of that yet. Even the brand new set-tops that have come out, still have
the unprotected interfaces. It is a transition issue that will be with
us, I think, for a few years.

HDTV Magazine:

Will any cable outlets be carrying the 480p Super Bowl?

Dave Arland:

That's a very good question. None that I am aware of. The only place
where it might be would be a market, like Philadelphia, that is already
carrying FOX. I know of the twenty seven, or so affiliates - there are
twenty-seven as of today - there may be more by Super Bowl Sunday. I'm
not aware of any cable operator that is jumping up and down to carry
digital television. If there is a message from Thomson for your readers,
that's it.

Get on the phone to your cable operator and ask for this stuff. Unless
there is demand for it, unless people are willing to pay for it,
they're, frankly, not very interested. I think we all need to get on the

HDTV Magazine:

In terms of the Super Bowl issue, is there anything else you would like to add?

Dave Arland:

Let's give it a chance until we have seen it. Maybe on February 4th we
will all agree that it was an experiment we shouldn't repeat. FOX is
convinced this is the way they want to do sports in the future. I think
we should give them the benefit of the doubt, we're certainly doing that
from a corporate standpoint. Thankfully, it will be in widescreen. So,
let's have a look at it and see how the ball bounces.

HDTV Magazine:

Anything else you would like to mention to our readers?

Dave Arland:

The thing to look for from RCA in 2002 is a wider assortment of
widescreen televisions - both in monitors and integrated sets. People
who are looking for sets that will hook with future generation cable and
satellite products need to pay attention to what is happening in the
market this year. Not everyone is on the same page.

My friend Bob Perry of Mitsubishi has been in your pages frequently
talking about their solution, which, I will tell you, is very nice.
Their home networking method is interesting. But, not every consumer
will want that. We will offer a solution that allows for easy future
connectivity to satellite and cable sources using the copy protected
interfaces Hollywood says it wants to use.

Now, work on making sure that in the future we can also record this stuff
- which is, I think, also very important.

HDTV Magazine:

Where do we stand on sales? What is Thomson's perspective.

Dave Arland:

The Consumer Electronics Association has released the final numbers for
2001. That shows that, despite what some Washington lobbyists think,
there were more than 1.4 million people who bought and H/DTV product in
2001. What is stunning to me as an industry participant, is that almost
200,000 set-top boxes for H/DTV were sold. I think that is the news in
this story.

HDTV Magazine:

Are there more in the pipeline?

Dave Arland:

Obviously, there are. A number of manufacturers are shipping product -
none of them yet beating our price of $549, but, that's okay. Not
everyone is the same. Others are offering different features than we

That's an encouraging sign. It shouldn't be surprising. There are more
terrestrial broadcasters signing on the air, so there is more demand, and
there is more content. Hopefully history will repeat itself in 2002 and
we will see more broadcasters, more content and more sales of both
integrated sets and set-top DVD last year, or the year before who then
went back, maybe after HDNet signed on, for example, and decided they
needed to get a set-top receiver, or once CBS added primetime
programming, or once their local ABC affiliate signed on the air. All of
those things are contributing to the success.

This year, in 2002, the industry is expected to get just over two
million digital sets sold, almost everything is HDTV, or HDTV monitor.
Almost doubling last year's numbers is an encouraging sign as well. I
hope we have some cable companies who agree, understand the trends and
come aboard. That's important. Cable carriage of DTV signals happen in
just a handful of cities.

HDTV Magazine:

Cable needs to step up.

Dave Arland:

Yes. I think that is the hot issue for 2002 now that we finally have the
engine moving down the tracks.

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01-23-2002, 07:13 PM
I get this everyday too! If you are an HDTVer it is a valuable resource to have. Also a lot of breaking news stories are sent to you automatically. Well worth the $35.00. They do need to add some BEV and *C info more often though IMO.

01-23-2002, 07:40 PM
Great article; thanks for posting. I'll sign up as well.

He does a good job setting the record straight on DTV/HDTV. In England they sell 9X as many DTV as HDTV sets. Also Disney has seen the revenue advantages of multicasting as well. Suddenly, visions of OTA profit centres, via multicasting, are grabbing the attention of all the mainline broadcasters.

So one can see why Rupert Murdoch made his Fox 2 Detroit station drop 720 and go to 480p - don't give the public something and then take it away from them.

01-23-2002, 08:05 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Geneva, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Spuzzz Buster:
In England they sell 9X as many DTV as HDTV sets.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


England doesn't have HDTV.

And a point of clarification.. the SuperBowl will NOT be in 480p. It's 480i, upconverted.

01-23-2002, 10:33 PM
I thought it was 480P 16:9, that is what AVS Forum and that article stated.. if it was 480i thats suckz even worse.

01-24-2002, 02:10 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Geneva, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by djp:

And a point of clarification.. the SuperBowl will NOT be in 480p. It's 480i, upconverted.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

That was the rumour circulating on AVS last week, that most station would upconvert the signal locally and rebroadcast it. But Dave Arland from Thomson states otherwise in the above article.

01-24-2002, 02:17 AM
It's not a rumor, Fox will originate in 480i digital, and the local stations upconvert to 480p.

If you read the article closely, it says the broadcast will be 480p, and it will. But the cameras and production equipment will be 480i.

[This message has been edited by Ken H (edited 01-23-2002).]

01-24-2002, 02:36 AM
An article on Fox & DTV.

[This message has been edited by Ken H (edited 01-23-2002).]

01-24-2002, 04:00 AM
From Jim Defilippis of Fox:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Geneva, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The production of the game, pre-game and halftime show will be 480i60 widescreen (16:9). All cameras will be set for widescreen and the show will be produced in the shoot wide/protect 4x3 mode. All graphics will be centered and kept within the safe 4x3 area. Any legacy or 4x3 elements will be converted to a 16x9 frame with a backplate (instead of black). The 16x9 is the full production mix with the 4x3 derived; thus for the first time the DTV viewer will have everything the NTSC viewer sees and more.

The output of the truck(s) will go to LA as a full 16x9. In LA, an ARC (aspect ratio converter) will cut out a 4x3. There will be individual net rooms, one for 4x3 the other for the 16x9. We will deliver a 4x3 to all stations and for the DTV stations they'll get a digital 16x9 480i60 feed. Our stations will then convert this to a 480p60 signal for broadcast.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Emphasis added.

01-24-2002, 01:28 PM
My mistake Ken and DJP. I reread the article and this paragraph:

"Thomson broadcast cameras will be used on the field as well in other broadcast locations, they will be using several of our Super Slow Motion digital units, which are brand new. They will be doing a first in the Super Bowl - which is to telecast the game, both digital and analog, through the same cameras. How they are going to do that is to start with a widescreen 16x9 camera field and then trim the edges for the analog broadcast.

.. had led me to believe that those brand new digital cameras were in fact capturing the event in 480p, not 480p. I don't see why they would need new equipement to film the game in plain'ol 480i ?