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Open Mike - Broadcasting & Cable

Open Mike

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Hmmm ...

Editor: You offered an interesting juxtaposition in your Dec. 16 issue. On page 47, Harry Jessell's column, "The Joy of Broadcasting," saluted Tom Draper as local owner-operator of Salisbury's WBOC-TV and spoke of the importance of having a local vision and providing genuine public service for success in television.

On page 11, David Smith, CEO of Sinclair, offered that higher quality "local news" can be more effectively provided to local TV stations across the country by a feed service from Baltimore.

Draper operates a 40-share TV station; last time I checked, Sinclair has a huge group of mostly single-digit-share stations. Very interesting.

Joseph W. Heston, president and general manager, KSBW(TV), Monterey-Salinas, Calif., Hearst-Argyle Television

Can't We All Get Along?

Editor: The Dec. 16, 2002, issue carried a front page story titled "Smulyan: Retrans or Bust." It is unfortunate that both the broadcasters and the cable operators see this as a "battle" when, in fact, it is an opportunity for both sides to win. Retrans is not a zero-sum game with one winner and one loser. It can be a win/win if we can move past the old ways of thinking.

The broadcasters have invested, under a government mandate, a huge treasure in creating an HDTV-delivery capability. Similarly, the cable industry has a huge investment in building out a digital-cable plant.

Both the broadcasters and the cable operators need a return on their investments. The broadcasters need DTV viewers, and the cable companies need content to drive subscribers to their higher-priced digital tiers. Both parties could use promotion of their product to generate new sources of revenue.

A strategy that satisfies these requirements is one that uses the broadcast analog signals to promote the digital content and its availability on cable's digital tiers.

Since television is the most powerful promotion engine on the planet, its promotion of cable's digital service during analog simulcasts of HDTV programs is worth something. That something could be tied to the number of subscribers that use the digital tier. In short, the broadcaster gets a second revenue stream tied to the number of DTV viewers on the cable and cable gets its digital product promoted. Both sides win.

If such a market-driven strategy could be implemented, it would surely accelerate the adoption of DTV and HDTV by the consumer and move the DTV transition forward at a greater pace than simply relying on some kind of government directive.

Nat Ostroff, vice president-new technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Baltimore

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