In the new emerging wireless age, one of the most valuable commodities is the EM spectrum, and a huge chunk of that is being taken up by free over-the-air broadcast TV, which according to the Consumer Electronics Association only about 8% of US homes get any use out of. Naturally, they want to offer more services, more devices, and more data through what’s already becoming a crowded pipeline, and they see this as their biggest and best target to acquire more bandwidth.
Broadcast TV serves the poor and rural communities, and typically provides far better picture quality than the more and more compressed picture you see on cable and satellite. Digital TV has brought about the advent of digital sub channels that give the un-cabled dozens of choices they never had before, including AntennaTV and MGM‘s dedicated movie and TV channel, which is often not offered as part of a cable package.
Regardless of the value of broadcast TV, history shows that eventually the lobbyists will get it killed, and offer some half-assed compensation/replacement package that will eventually get watered down to nothing. Any turning off of the towers must include an irrevocable free hookup to cable for all existing content offered over the air, and it should come in HD as well. Most people under the age of 25 can’t even imagine getting their TV from an antenna, and while they cut off the cable company, they run to the internet, and not OTA, for their TV fix.
Even though the sample was generally unwilling to cancel pay-TV service, CEA did reveal that more and more were indeed viewing OTT video from Hulu, Netflix and others on their TVs. It did confirm that cord-cutting meant a shift to online video but not over-the-air TV.
“Over-the-air TV was once the defining distribution platform,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO. “The only cord being cut these days is the one to the antenna. It’s time we accept this shift away from over-the-air TV as an irrevocable fact of the TV market. The numbers tell the story.”
Broadcast TV remains a great place for free expression that doesn’t require the permission of a corporation, and in large cities, small independent stations can thrive with diverse programming if they choose to. So if you’re curious, run down to Radio Shack and plug in; you might be surprised how much better the networks look in comparison to your cable signal, and enjoy it while it lasts, because you’ll be paying for everything that used to be free soon enough.