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Cable giants in talks for yet another high profile merger

The upcoming season for cable TV could see yet another merger.

Charter Communications — the nationwide cable giant whose properties include Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable — is weighing a fresh plan to acquire Atlanta-based Cox Communications, three sources told The Post.

Charter Chief Executive Tom Rutledge is eyeing family-owned Cox despite the fact that the latter has repeatedly rejected overtures from larger rivals, industry insiders say.

“Tom wants to buy Cox,” said one highly placed cable source. Another confirmed the news, but stressed there have been no formal approaches.

“If they’re going to sell it to anyone, they’re going to sell it to an old cable guy,” one industry source said.

Rutledge is a former chief operating officer at Cablevision, which was acquired for $17.7 billion from the Dolan family last year by French-based Altice NV, which has also acquired Suddenlink.

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Hitachi-Comark Raises RF Questions Ahead of Repack

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Hungry Mobile Video: Will Next-Generation TV Feed the Beast?

Bandwidth-hungry video is viewed as an insatiable beast by those who are delivering it over crowded networks. Better compression and mobile network advances have relieved some congestion but the flames of UHD and virtual reality are licking at the heels of cellular networks.

TV broadcasters think they can help relieve some of that congestion with the new next-generation DTT system, ATSC 3.0. Many see the new set of standards as a way to deliver the highest-quality UHD programs and a method for harmonizing broadband and broadcast delivery. Other broadcasters think it’s most important job will be to broadcast video programming to mobile devices like smartphones.

Broadcasting instead of unicasting is already a more efficient use of resources but the new system, which specifies HEVC, AC-4 and MPEG-H compression standards and can be better optimized for mobile transmissions than the current standard, promises to be a complement to distributing video content over cellular networks and the internet.

And, yes, it has been tried before. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO, which provided broadcasted pay TV services using licenses in the 700 MHz band, closed up shop back in 2011. Select US free-to-air broadcasters deployed mobile TV services with the ATSC-M/H standard, which was developed to be backward compatible with the current DTT system, ATSC. Neither of these succeeded, ditto for a similar effort in Europe with the DVB-H standard. What went wrong?

Most attribute the failure of MediaFLO to the pay business model coupled with a limited line up of programming. ATSC M/H, most say, suffered from a lack of receivers in a classic “chicken and egg” conundrum. In addition, the availability of mobile content rights was spotty and content offerings suffered. So, why should it be different this time?

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Now in its fourth season, there's no end in sight for the Dodgers' TV blackout

By Bill Shaikin

Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Monday. In theory, the fans that cannot attend the game at Dodger Stadium can gather ‘round their television sets and enjoy another performance by the ace of the team and the face of a generation. Kershaw might well become the franchise’s first Hall of Fame player since Don Sutton, who last played for the team 29 years ago.

Alas, the Dodgers’ broadcasts go unseen by the majority of their fans. So do Kershaw’s heroics, including the Dodgers’ last no-hitter.

There is no end in sight to the dispute between DirecTV and Charter Communications, which inherited the mess when it bought Time Warner Cable. (Charter sells cable service under the Spectrum brand name.)

This is the fourth season of the Dodgers’ television blackout. The team has won the National League West in each of the previous three seasons. Meanwhile the team-owned SportsNet LA channel that carries the games has been unavailable in millions of homes in Southern California that don’t have Spectrum.

That does not mean that viewers in all those homes would tune in to the Dodgers’ games even if they could, of course. However, we can get an idea of the effect of the blackout by checking the ratings for the 10 games Charter and the Dodgers aired free on KTLA in April and May as simulcasts of the SportsNet LA broadcasts.

Has the blackout killed interest among a significant number of fans, or do people still want to watch the Dodgers?

They still want to watch. The average SportsNet LA broadcast this season has attracted 79,000 households. The 10-game KTLA package averaged 378,000 households, including the SportsNet LA viewers — an audience almost five times as large as the one for games aired only on the Dodgers’ channel.

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Repack Phase Zero? You Could Be In Trouble

Many TV broadcasters have an unpleasant reality in store for them as the spectrum repack gains momentum — one that may take some by surprise, says Karl Voss, chief engineer at noncommercial KAET Phoenix and the SBE/NFL frequency coordinator.

The reality is many broadcasters belong to a transition period Voss likes to call Phase Zero — a term he has coined for those using unprotected channels regardless of their primary or secondary broadcast service status.

“Phase Zero is any channel in 600 MHz or above that is not a protected channel,” he says.

While the repack rules protect about 1,000 U.S. Class A and full-power TV stations, allowing them to continue transmitting their signals to viewers on a new channel assignment and reimbursing at least a part of the expense involved in moving channels, that’s only one part of the story, Voss says.

“If that channel doesn’t have a protected user on it, meaning low-powers, TV translators and wireless microphones, it’s vulnerable,” he says.

That means even full-power and Class A stations must be ready with alternatives to replace wireless mics, intercoms, IFBs, in-ear talent monitors and other equipment that today operate in the 600 MHz band. And they must do so posthaste.

 

“Many vendors have been telling everybody not to worry about wireless mics,” says Voss. “They say: ‘You won’t have to get off your channels till 2020 at the end of the transition.’ But that’s simply not true.”

Unlike before the auction when broadcasters had two UHF channels reserved in each market for wireless mics, once a wireless carrier moves into its newly acquired spectrum — perhaps onto unprotected channels used by wireless mics — broadcasters must vacate.

That can happen well before the end dates assigned to each of the FCC’s 10 repack phases, and Voss is concerned this will take many broadcasters by surprise.

“I think the wireless mic folks are in for a big challenge because everybody had this idea that there would be this semi-orderly transition based on the phases. That’s not the case.”

T-Mobile is planning to turn on wireless service on a lot of its new 600 MHz spectrum before the end of this year, a source familiar with repack said on background.

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