NBC Details Ambitious DTV Multicasting Plan

Nov 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In a major step forward on the digital television front, NBC Television Stations President Jay Ireland has advised the Federal Communications Commission of plans for NBC’s owned stations and affiliates to launch multiple DTV channels in each market next year.
According to the FCC filing, one digital channel in each market will carry the standard NBC network and affiliate programming. Another will feature local news in the daytime and NBC’s high-definition programming in prime time and late-night. A third channel will focus on weather, while a fourth will focus on local sports and other events.
“NBC Networks + New Local Content = Added Digital Spectrum Use,” said a disclosure report on the private presentation that NBC filed with the FCC.
Network representatives last week declined comment on their pitch, which was delivered personally to FCC Chairman Michael Powell on Nov. 6. But according to the required disclosure documents on the session, the new networks were announced as part of a lobbying pitch for a rule that that would require cable operators to carry all of the free digital TV streams that broadcasters offer over their DTV channels.
“Broadcasters [will be] willing to invest in multicast ahead of DTV switchover if [there is a] promise of future carriage,” NBC explained in its tersely worded filing.
The four English-language programming streams will eventually be joined in markets where NBC’s Telemundo has affiliates by four more programming streams in Spanish, Mr. Ireland told the FCC, although at present there is no clear timetable for when those streams might launch. They would carry Telmundo’s regular programming, Hispanic local news, weather and Spanish-language entertainment. “Telemundo O&O’s can also capitalize on digital spectrum,” the NBC executives said.
The network said in its presentation that the new channel space would eliminate the need for affiliate pre-emptions of network programming, leading to improved affiliate/network relations and the creation of new national networks that include programming by local affiliates.
The presentation also said the concept would spur the development of an “NBC Weather Network,” a new “leading” weather network that would include a mix of national and local elements provided by the network and its affiliates and 50 “weather cam” locations.
The NBC executives said a multicast cable carriage requirement would “prevent [the] decline of free TV to dangerous levels” and “increase broadcast opportunities for independent programmers.”
According to NBC’s disclosure notice, Mr. Ireland’s entourage included Mike Steib, NBC business development finance; Bob Okun, NBC VP, government relations; and Bill LeBeau, NBC senior regulatory counsel. Also present at the session was Jonathan Cody, Mr. Powell’s legal adviser.