Did it Really Happen?

I’m almost afraid to look…

Was there another delay?  No?!?

Is it over? Are we safe? Were there riots?

Truth be told, if you are reading this, you probably were not affected too severely by the event “over ten years in the making”: the Digital Transition of America’s television broadcast system. And that’s why I won’t dwell on the negative.

If you believe the internet, 11% ofthe country relies on over-the-air (OTA) broadcast as their only source of a TV signal. No one knows for sure how many of those will suddenly go dark either because they are unprepared, in terms of the new pieces necessary to make DTV work, or simply not having being provided with a quality signal.

The good news is, now all of America will be exposed to the wonders of digital: clear wide screen images, high fidelity audio, electronic programming guides, and alternate programming options. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once stations get familiar with the standards, the hardware, and the software many more possibilities will become reality.

What is even more exciting are the potential uses of the old analog channels. The new DTV channels operate in a brand new chunk of air, or spectrum. When the owners of broadcast rights (ABC, CBS, etc.) were sold the new digital spectrum, they had to relinquish the rights to the old analog spectrum by Feb 2009. Then there was the DTV Delay Act earlier this year that pushed it out to June 2009. It’s all water under the bridge now; back to the spectrum. What will happen to this old chunk of air? Time will tell, but there are many out there with ideas, hopes, and dreams.

Once all programming is in a digital format, things can get very interesting. Many of us are familiar with the transportation of programming, besides OTA: cable, satellite, IPTV (i.e. FIOS), and internet streaming (a.k.a. web based TV). To be fair, there are a number of video capable phones and other categories of handheld devices, so throw in mobile TV. Who are the content creators that will use the economies of scale to take advantage of all these transport media effectively and efficiently? What impact will social networking have on these new applications? Where will changes manifest themselves first and with greater impact? How are hardware vendors preparing and how will consumers react? Why so many questions and no answers?

There will be plenty of time for guesses, educated and lesser. In the meantime, to mark this momentous occasion, here is an A/V guide from the DTV website. I’m off to watch some HDTV.

Oh, and welcome to the new era! The forecast calls for it to be a fun ride.

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