Multicasting likely not the solution for broadcasters

Multicasting likely not the solution for broadcasters
Multicasting is splitting a broadcaster’s bandwidth to produce several digital signals, and on paper, the idea sounds like salvation in a time of market fragmentation. It could provide help for troubled broadcasters, but it likely won’t. That’s because broadcasters don’t understand the cultural change that’s come with all this new technology, and they’ll likely approach additional “channels” with the same command and control structure they do their existing channel. That means commercial interruptions, a revenue source that’s dying due to the rapid growth of personal video recorders (PVRs or DVRs).

An LA Times article points to Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL in Raleigh and Disney’s experiments with multicasting in Fresno as examples of broadcasters pushing this envelope. There’s a fight brewing over it with the FCC too, because proponents want cable companies to “must carry” these additional channels, while the cable industry is naturally aghast at the idea. Broadcasters need cable providers in this scheme, because few viewers will spend the money required to obtain a TV set that’ll read these new signals. I’m aghast too, because this feels an awful lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. What needs to change is the essential business model of broadcasting, wherein a mountaintop transmitter feeds a passive “mass audience” while the owner of the transmitter makes money through commercial interruptions. It just isn’t going to work in a Postmodern world, where the person at home is completely in charge of their own experience. Moreover, the Internet provides a natural (and existing) “multicasting” platform that broadcasters could already be using but don’t. Sigh. And so it goes…

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