Harris looks to low-cost DTV

With 230 TV stations on the air in digital and another 400 having placed orders for DTV transmission equipment, manufacturers have begun turning their attention to the small-market broadcaster. For Harris, this has meant introduction of a transmission system designed to get a broadcaster on the air in digital for less than $200,000.

"One of the things we're trying to do on the TV side is make sure that the technology we've developed can make its way across the market as everyone faces the mandated transition," says Dale Mowry, vice president, transmission systems.

The system is based on the Ranger series of low-power UHF transmitters priced at less than $100,000. With a lower-priced Flexicoder ATSC MPEG-2 encoder and a DTV master-control system called MC-PK, total system cost is $150,000 to $200,000. The lower-cost Flexicoders include a single-channel standard-definition version, a dual-channel SD version and an HD 4.2.0 version.

The MC-PK (which the company pronounces "Mac-Pak") has four versions for either single-channel HD or single-channel SD/HD needs. Add-ons like PSIP insertion are available.

"That's a big shift from the $2 million to $4 million that has been heard in the past," Mowry points out.

The package won't provide very good coverage area, he adds, but will allow the station to meet the mandate. "If there are people in the viewing area buying DTV sets, [stations] might get a few phone calls complaining."

President and General Manager Bruce Allan considers the system ideal for smaller broadcasters that won't be driving the DTV market. "This lets them learn what digital is about, work it and maintain spectrum until the market is to the point where the station can afford to go digital."

Another new product Harris is taking to NAB will be the CLARO automation system. The company says the commercial- and program-automation system is based on the ADC series platform and was developed for stations that need to manage a single channel of playout and will use video servers for ad playout.