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I may be all wrong about this, but free OTA stations that can broadcast in HD may experience something of a rebirth with the growth of HDTV. At the conclusion of the Digital conversion, will there be more OTA bandwidth for more local/regional OTA channels? If so, doesn’t this represent a good entrepreneurial opportunity (a la Mark Cuban)?
 

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Welcome to the forum, MickeyGee.


I don't think the fundamental economics of broadcasting will change with the conversion to digital. That is, in larger cities where there is a larger audience, you often see ten or more stations OTA, whereas in towns of 200,000 or so you will only see the three networks and then a few more (one PBS, one or two independent, and one or two religious or home shopping is a common distribution).


For broadcasters who have little or no HD programming, the switch from NTSC to ATSC will allow multicasting; the Chicago Pax station, WCPX, for example, carries six SD feeds on its digital channel. Much of what they broadcast includes The 700 Club, Bonanza reruns, and Christian music videos -- HD doesn't quite work for any of that programming.


The switch to ATSC won't make it substantially cheaper or easier for new stations to come on the air, and unless the number of viewers increases to the point where there would be significantly more advertising revenue available, I don't think there will be a rush to start up new OTA stations.


Just my guess -- only time will tell.
 

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Two major benefits that I see of going digital:


1) non-HD broadcasters can benefit from multicasting. As Dan points out, a single transmiter station can send out 6 SD feeds with the same amount of hardware as 1 station currently requires. Several SD stations could get together and save electricty, equipment, and land costs by sharing a single 6Mhz station.


2) After the analog shutoff, tt will be easier to get channels for a new station, since with ATSC there isn't as much of a problem with adjacent channel interference. You can stack channels on consecutive channels. This is impossible with analog.


Whether these benefits are enough to start a stampede of new OTA stations, I'm not sure.
 
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