On Tuesday, just two weeks after announcing a channel sharing pilot with Los Angeles broadcast television stations KLCS and KJLA, and just one week after the FCC approved the pilot project, I had the honor of joining the stations in hosting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for a peak of the pilot in action. CTIA believes that channel sharing can play an important role in creating a successful broadcast incentive auction. While we are only at the beginning stages of this endeavor, the early signs are promising.
The channel sharing pilot will evaluate the feasibility of two broadcast TV stations sharing one six megahertz channel to deliver both stations’ programming to their over-the-air viewers. If channel sharing proves technically feasible, this could be a win-win for stations and for the public; stations would get an option to participate in the incentive auction, and consumers who want over-the-air television may still get it while also getting better access to mobile broadband services.
Drilling down to the technical level, the pilot will explore how many separate "streams" can be broadcast over one shared channel without denigrating the quality of the viewer experience. KLCS is one of the most watched PBS stations in the country with 8 million households viewing the channel each month, and KJLA, a commercial station, provides programming to a diverse community of viewers in Los Angeles. Both are mission driven to deliver a quality experience for their viewers. To that end, the stations are testing state-of-the-art software that analyzes the quality of the picture that their viewers receive over the shared channel. Early indications are promising that channel sharing can allow combining of programming between two stations without adversely affecting the quality of experience for viewers.
In a world of finite spectrum, exploring opportunities for these types of novel arrangements is crucial. They hold the potential to free up much-needed spectrum to meet U.S. consumers’ voracious demand for mobile broadband services for Internet access whenever and wherever. This spectrum will also fuel investment, jobs and innovation that will continue to drive our economy, without impairing the broadcasters’ business models.
So, as we launch this pilot, there is much to be excited about for broadcasters, the wireless industry and consumers. Thank you again to KLCS and KJLA for an informative and encouraging preview!