Smulyan Unveils Digital Service

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After months of plotting in secret, Emmis Communications Corp. CEO Jeff Smulyan is unveiling a plan that he claimed will resolve broadcast stations’ greatest quandary: how to make money off their new digital signals.

Onstage and in meetings during the NAB show in Las Vegas this week, he’ll lobby his fellow TV broadcasters to pool their digital spectrum in a bold effort to offer a new wireless cable service in cities nationwide. Under the plan, stations would offer subscribers a package of 15 or so of the most popular cable networks for $25 a month--a big discount from cable and satellite TV.

Smulyan’s plan, unthinkable only a few years ago, turns a time-worn TV business model on its ear through a clever trick of technology. The cable industry was born in the 1950s by retransmitting local TV stations. Now, using new digital spectrum, broadcasters can retransmit the signals of cable networks "over the air."

"I want to preserve the future of over-the-air broadcasting," Smulyan told B&C last week in an exclusive interview, "and I think I have the answer."

Details in Monday's Broadcasting & Cable.

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