Magazine article Variety

Broadcast Television Needs More Horsepower to Compete

Magazine article Variety

Broadcast Television Needs More Horsepower to Compete

Article excerpt

The death watch has begun for broadcast TV. At least, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings thinks so.

Hastings says that by 2030 or so, linear broadcast channels will go the way of the horse-drawn carriage. I wonder if that means that in just 15 years, the only place we'll be able to watch CBS is in Central Park.

Hastings understands that broadcast TV is being squeezed, and he's happy to help with the squeezing. We all know the litany of woes: Broadcast networks are expensive to run. Audiences are splintering. Ad rates are down. Younger viewers are losing the habit of watching television.

The remaining viewers are impatient with commercial interruptions. Those in the upscale demographic - the one coveted by advertisers - tend to watch via DVR and like to fast-forward through the ads.

Hastings' prediction will surely come true if the TV business remains stuck in old technology and obsolete practices. Maybe the next TV standard will help by getting shows onto mobile devices and keeping up with 4K and other improvements. If not, broadcast 'IV could truly become passe.

However history shows that clever people in entertainment find ways to repurpose and exploit new technology in ways its inventors never intended. For example, 3D wasn't on most people's minds when the modern digital cinema standards were created, but the new platform was easily adapted to 3D, and for exhibitors, 3D quickly proved to be digital cinema's killer app.

And the tech stork hits just delivered a baby that could grow up to prolong TV's life: the 5K video screen.

No, I'm not arguing that 5K will be any better for viewers than 4K. I'm not even sold on 4KIV. This is about getting ads on the screen, which is still the key to free broadcast TV.

Like many innovations, 5K displays are debuting as pro gear. The idea is that film editors and other pros can put up a full 4K image of the content they're working on and still have room on the bottom and sides for tool palettes and the like. …

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