We were saddened by the shockingly distorted view of broadcast television presented by Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association in his Sunday op-ed in the Review-Journal. Virtually every word in his op-ed was false, beginning with the claim that broadcast TV viewership is declining. In fact, broadcast TV is growing, as evidenced by the millions of people who have cut the pay-TV cord and embraced a broadcast-broadband future.
Case in point: An independent study by GfK Research found that 59.7 million Americans now rely exclusively on over-the-air television, up from 54 million in the last year. That represents 19.3 percent of all homes who get their television exclusively via rooftop or in-home antennas, up from 14 percent just two years ago.
Mr. Shapiro can deny that cord-cutting is a reality, but 2 million customers abandoned their cable TV service in the last year alone, according to the research firm SNL Kagan. Some switched to a satellite pay-TV service, but 2013 marked the first year in history that the pay-television business lost subscribers.
Viewers who cut the cable cord and turn to over-the-air broadcasting are discovering new consumer-friendly services. Since the analog-to-digital transition, broadcasters have launched scores of new channels. Broadcast stations also have launched mobile TV services that send live, local programming to smartphones, tablets and laptops.
While Mr. Shapiro grumbles about the need for broadcast airwaves to meet demand for streamed video, he neglects to mention that broadcast television is the most efficient way to deliver video content because of its one-to-everyone transmission architecture. Over-the-air broadcast viewers get pristine picture quality that is unmatched by cable or satellite systems. High-definition television has enhanced the viewer experience, and Ultra HD is only a few years away. And in case Mr. Shapiro has forgotten, broadcasters led the march to high-definition television while pay TV providers were playing catch-up.
Unlike the services offered by most of Mr. Shapiro’s “bill-by-the-bit” members, many of these broadcast innovations can be received by consumers for just the cost of an antenna. No monthly bills, no hidden fees, no punitive charges. It seems in Mr. Shapiro’s world, it’s not worth offering a product if you can’t charge for it.
Broadcasters aren’t resting on their laurels, as Mr. Shapiro suggests. We continue to support innovation, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the National Association of Broadcasters Show exhibit floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week. That’s where you will see 35 football fields of exhibit space from 1,600 companies across the globe, offering new products and services to enhance the broadcast/broadband/multimedia experience, including Mobile TV, Ultra HD, interactive TV applications and developments in “second-screen TV.”
SPROCKIT, a year-round initiative that connects start-ups with industry-leading companies, kicks off at the NAB Show for the second year with twice as many participants and an expanded program. Among SPROCKIT’s founding corporate members are leading broadcasters including Univision, Hearst Television, Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting and Tribune Broadcasting.
Also, for the first time anywhere outside of Japan, NHK is demonstrating 8K video transmission — which has 16 times more pixels than current HD television — over a single television channel.
Make no mistake: There is a difference between innovation that rewards content creation and innovation that enables the theft of copyrighted content. Broadcasters embrace the former; Mr. Shapiro endorses the latter. It is ironic that Mr. Shapiro, who claims to be a proponent of protecting the rights of patent holders, would actively embrace companies seeking to profit through the illegal use of copyrighted materials of others.
NAB Show 2014 is pleased to play host to the world’s largest media/technology trade show, and we thank Las Vegas for its hospitality. More than $20 billion in business will be generated on the convention center floor, and our 95,000-plus attendees will deliver $121 million to the local economy. And, despite the misguided views of Mr. Shapiro, America’s unique system of broadcast television will remain a platform for innovation and leadership across the globe.
Dennis Wharton is the executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters.