will Consumers Receive DTV?
Over-the-Air DTV Broadcasts
Consumers will need to hook up an antenna to receive and display
the signals on a Digital Television with a built-in digital tuner.
In most areas, consumers will be able to receive their local
station’s digital broadcasts, and, depending on their location,
broadcasts from US border cities.
by Cable or Satellite
These service providers rent or sell special digital DTV
capable STB’s to process the signal. When connected to a DTV
compliant set, the signal is passed directly to the set for
display. If connected to an analogue set, the box converts the
digital signal to analogue for display.
consumers be able to receive both analogue and digital broadcasts?
As the transition to DTV broadcast develops, broadcasters will
simulcast their programming on their old analogue channel and
their new Digital channel. Consumers who have analogue sets with
antennas will be able to watch TV on the existing analogue
stations, and DTV set owners will be able to receive the new
digital signals via antenna. When the analogue broadcasts cease,
those consumers with an analogue TV will need to either subscribe
to a delivery service that provides an STB to decode the signals
for display on their set, purchase a Digital Signal Converter, or
purchase a new DTV. Consumers will have ample notice before
Canadian broadcasters decide to cease analogue broadcasting.
kind of Digital Televisions are available now?
The ATSC standards for Standard Definition (SD) and High
Definition (HD) relate to broadcast, not display. The set
manufacturers recently adopted specific terminology, developed by
the US based Consumer Electronics Association, to use in the
marketing of their products. In essence, they have separated the
capabilities into two categories: “Digital Television” sets
with built-in ATSC tuners, and “DTV Ready” sets requiring
external STB’s to display the signals. The definitions also
cover the display and audio capabilities of the sets. SD and SD
Ready is for basic DTV display, ED (enhanced definition) and ED
Ready is for improved display and audio characteristics, while HD
and HD Ready represent the highest quality resolution available,
AC3 audio and Widescreen aspect ratio. All sets marketed are
identified by these criteria.
this time, most of the sets available are “DTV Ready”, and are
typically larger screen size models, suitable for Home Theatre
applications. Many companies are also offering Flat Panel models,
based on LCD/TFT or Plasma technologies.
is involved in Creating HDTV Programming?
The criteria for High Definition Television is that it must be
digital content, transmitted in digital form, received and
displayed on an HD capable set. Most 35mm films and high quality
videotape productions can be digitized into a format that
qualifies for HDTV. While many studios are digitizing their
libraries for future programming uses, they are also starting to
create programming in digital form, in both Canada and the USA.
DTV broadcast starts in Canada, how will it work?
Broadcasters transmit their NTSC programming from their central
station, with a network of repeater stations, and will do the same
with DTV programming in a simulcast mode. The broadcaster’s
“over-the-air” transmitters also feed their programming to the
various cable and satellite service providers, who deliver the
programming over their own networks to their customers. Specialty
and Premium programming will also be fed directly to these service
providers, who will make it available to those customers who have
a digital STB and pay additional fees for those programs. A
consumer wishing to receive free DTV programming from over-the-air
broadcasts must have a DTV set with a built-in ATSC digital tuner.
is involved for a Broadcaster to convert to Digital?
There are 18 different formats of DTV, including 6 High Definition
(HDTV) formats. HDTV requires that the programming be digital,
delivered to the DTV or set top box with very high resolution,
(either 720 progressive scanning lines, or 1080 interlaced
scanning lines in a wide screen (16x9) aspect ratio and with Dolby
Digital (AC3) audio.
broadcast “channel” is 6 megaHertz, and 1 HDTV broadcast will
consume most of that. However there are 12 SDTV or Standard
Definition Television formats utilizing lower resolution than
HDTV, either 16x9 or 4x3 aspect ratio, and lower audio quality.
These broadcasts can be compressed so that a broadcaster could
transmit at least 4 SD programs in the space of a single HD
broadcast. Broadcasters must select which ATSC format they will
use for programming. As all ATSC STB’s and tuners can decode all
ATSC formats, it is up to the broadcaster to determine their
preferred format for broadcast.
any Canadian Broadcasters Digital Yet?
Toronto-based City TV has already applied for an over-the-air DTV
broadcast license, and other applications for major market
stations are expected to follow. There are three test transmitters
now operating in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal. These transmitters
are being fed a variety of DTV programming to test the
efficiencies and capabilities of the various ATSC formats. Many
Canadians are now able to receive to DTV transmissions from the
increasing number US border city broadcasters. Canadian set
manufacturers report that these markets exceed the national
average in sales of HDTV sets with built in tuners. This is a
clear indication that Canadian consumers are ready for HD.
throughout North America are faced with the elimination of their
analogue-broadcasting spectrum, and must re-engineer their
facilities to meet the ATSC broadcast standards. In most cases all
the transmission, studio, camera equipment and repeater tower
equipment must be replaced.. However, many stations upgrade their
equipment on an ongoing basis, and have included the cost of
converting to digital in their long-term business plans.
Currently, approximately 20% of Canadians receive their primary
television directly from “over the air” broadcasts.
are the Cable Company Doing?
The cable industry currently services roughly 74% of Canadian TV
households. The major cable companies have built out their
networks to be able to provide digital services to most of their
subscribers, and are aggressively promoting their digital STB’s.
Approximately 800,000 of their customers currently have these
STB’s. Digital cable subscriptions are forecasted to exceed
2,000,000 by 2005. Many cable companies are now distributing
several channels of High Definition television programming,
although viewers need to upgrade their SD digital STB’s to new
HD compliant models to benefit. The major cable companies are
actively sourcing new HD content to add to their services.
is the Status of DTH Satellite in Canada?
The two authorized Canadian satellite companies have captured over
14% of the Canadian TV viewing households, and are growing. The
satellite companies digitize the analogue programming they receive
to SD, and deliver it to their customer’s STB in that form. The
STB then either passes the signal directly to a DTV display, or
converts it into a signal that can be seen on an analogue TV set.
Both service providers are offering several channels of High
Definition programming, and market HD STB’s to decode those
should Consumers Buy?
There are many different choices available, depending on the needs
and wants of each individual. Most Canadian TV retailers are well
versed in the specific features and capabilities of their
products, and can give good advice. Certainly, an in-store
demonstration of the picture quality available in DTV will assist
in the decision making process. The availability of HD programming
may vary from area to area, depending on service providers. More
and more DTV content is being made available on an ongoing basis,
through cable and satellite, and will be ultimately be joined by
One thing is certain though… DTV is a reality, not a trend or a
fad, and is here to stay.
in Canada 2002, A Work in Progress
idea of HDTV is being embraced by consumers in ever increasing
numbers. Evidence of this is the sales ratio of HDTV capable
products in Canadian border cities with access to US over-the-air
HD broadcasts. Since introduction, Canadian consumers have
purchased well over 500,000 DTV capable sets.
The set manufacturers have introduced a wide variety of
increasingly affordable DTV compliant sets, including some based
on exciting new technologies, such as LCD and Plasma. Many brands
provide comprehensive technical information on their web sites.
The Canadian “DTH” satellite companies have already
demonstrated their readiness and capabilities in delivering DTV,
although consumers will need to obtain an HD capable STB and
subscribe to the HD programming.
The cable companies are continuing to build out their networks
to reach as many customers as they can. Subscribers with HD
STB’s will be able to receive a number of HD channels.
There are 3 over-the-air test transmitters up and running,
providing valuable information and experience to the broadcasting
community, as they prepare their transition to free over-the-air