John Lawson joins Public Media Venture Group to advocate for Next Gen TV – Current

John Lawson joins Public Media Venture Group to advocate for Next Gen TV

By Scott Fybush, Freelance Contributor | July 14, 2020 | Reprint from Current

The Public Media Venture Group, the business consortium of 31 public broadcasters seeking new service and revenue opportunities, is adding an advocacy voice in Washington with a new collaboration with former public TV leader John Lawson.

Lawson, who led APTS (then known as the Association of Public Television Stations) from 2001 to 2008, is now president of Convergence Services Inc., which will advise PMVG on issues related to what Lawson calls “techno-political strategy.”

“If you did a Venn diagram, you’d have one circle for technology, one for business and one for policy,” Lawson said. “Right in that little area where all three intersect is where I think the biggest opportunity for public broadcasting sits.”

Conversations between PMVG and Lawson began several months ago, said PMVG CEO Marc Hand. But an official partnership came together in earnest more recently, as PMVG’s members and other public TV stations began to focus on providing education services with the COVID-19 pandemic closing schools and keeping students at home.

Hand said that presented public TV stations with both an opportunity to provide a useful service and an urgent need for a voice in Washington to advocate for funding to cover those new expenses.

The federal coronavirus relief bill in March provided $13.5 billion for education, including the kind of remote learning that Lawson and Hand said is an ideal use of the new ATSC 3.0 transmission system now being rolled out in some markets.

“We know remote learning is going to be a reality for a very long time,” Lawson said. “Stations are already playing an important role, but how do you structure it so that stations can be reimbursed for their cost, so it can be a sustainable service?”

For PMVG, which is based in Boulder, Colo., with Hand working from the San Francisco Bay Area, adding Lawson’s voice in Washington will be important, especially as the ATSC 3.0 conversion begins to build steam, Hand said.

“It gives us a much better ability to coordinate all of these pieces and serve as a communications conduit, coming through us to all of the stations so that we can help align all those pieces in a way that is as productive as possible for not only the Venture Group stations but all of the public stations overall,” he said.

‘Tremendous synergies’

While tapping into funding for remote learning will be an early priority for Lawson’s work with PMVG, he and Hand are eager to collaborate on advocacy for other ATSC 3.0 functions as well.

Hand said Lawson’s other recent work makes him a perfect fit for that effort. Through CSI, Lawson heads the Advanced Warning and Response Network Alliance, which hopes to use ATSC 3.0 as a platform to distribute emergency alerts.

“There are tremendous synergies between AWARN and PMVG,” Lawson said. “We have a pretty broad base in our coalition of commercial and public broadcasters already. We have consumer electronics companies and trade associations, and we think we can bring a lot of what we’ve learned to our work for PMVG. And PMVG can actually lead the broadcast industry in deploying advanced alerting and information, with the right support.”

Digital TV was still in its infancy when Lawson led APTS, but even then, he said, “I was intrigued by the idea of aggregating public TV spectrum for a national footprint to deliver digital services, but I also knew that the corporate and legal structure did not exist to do that effectively.”

Now that PMVG has assembled that structure, Lawson said, there are many more opportunities he’s eager to help explore. In addition to emergency alerting, Lawson said, he hopes to involve public TV stations in a CSI pilot program, now underway in the Washington, D.C., market, to deliver additional interactive news content over ATSC 3.0.

“We have public stations that produce news now, and they will be in a position to reach their communities in new ways,” Lawson said. “But even stations that don’t produce news will be in a position to benefit, because we’re working on cloud-based services that will allow stations to deliver highly localized content.”

Even public radio could benefit from ATSC 3.0 development. “If we’re successful, 3.0 tuners will be in all sorts of devices, from tuners to smartphones to connected cars to the Internet of Things,” Lawson said. “And if public radio is distributed through 3.0, then potentially it could reach millions more consumers at any given time. I believe there’s a big opportunity for NPR in particular to be part of the advanced emergency news and information framework we are developing.”

Lawson and Hand say they’re looking forward to working in tandem with existing Washington advocacy groups, including APTS. As the FCC continues to work through rulemaking proceedings for data distribution over ATSC 3.0, for instance, Hand said PMVG and CSI planned to work through their Washington lawyers to coordinate their comments with APTS and PBS “so that we’re aligned and are ideally coming in with a complementary comment.”

Some of their specific plans will shift depending on who controls Washington after November’s elections, Lawson said.

“It’s clear that America has a major rebuilding agenda ahead of it,” he said. “Especially if the party control changes in the White House and especially the Senate, we will see some major outlays in a wide area of services and infrastructure. Public media, to be successful, has always had to look at market forces, but beyond the market to public support. We think there will be several opportunities in the year ahead to match up what stations can do with Next Gen TV with solving some of the challenges in front of us as a country.”

PRESS RELEASE: PUBLIC MEDIA VENTURE GROUP ANNOUNCES COLLABORATION WITH CONVERGENCE SERVICES, INC.

PRESS RELEASE: PUBLIC MEDIA VENTURE GROUP ANNOUNCES COLLABORATION WITH CONVERGENCE SERVICES, INC.

BOULDER, CO (July 1) — The Public Media Venture Group (PMVG) is pleased to announce a new collaboration with Washington, DC-based strategic consultant Convergence Services, Inc. (CSI). The two organizations will work together to
identify and develop Next Generation TV services and strategic opportunities for PMVG’s nationwide collective of public media stations.

CSI’s president, John Lawson, will serve as an advisor to PMVG with a focus on ‘techno-political strategy,’ where business, technology, and policy intersect. CSI will add additional breadth and experience to PMVG’s work to develop new service and revenue models for it member public television stations. The collaboration work will also focus on the development of new revenue sources including private and public funding, private investment, and strategic partnerships. Overall areas of service-focused development will include expanded local program services, education and remote learning, emergency messaging, rural connectivity, and data delivery.

“We are excited to join forces with PMVG,” said Lawson. “They have a national footprint with leading public television stations that reach almost 70 percent of U.S. households. Equally impressive is the organizational structure they’ve built
that enables non-commercial licensees to pursue innovation and sustainability.

Through CSI, Lawson also serves as executive director of the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) Alliance, an international coalition of commercial and public broadcasters, consumer electronics makers, and B2B tech companies that are developing a voluntary framework for advanced emergency alerting, news, and information using NextGen TV.

“We see major synergies between our work for PMVG and the AWARN Alliance. Already, we have four public broadcasters who are members of both organizations, which is a good indication of how the missions intersect,” Lawson said.

“This collaboration with CSI will bring an important set of strategic links to PMVG and the PMVG stations,” said Marc Hand, CEO of PMVG, “and John’s experience, relationships, and strategic thinking nicely complement those we have at PMVG. We think that by working together we can help to accelerate the adoption of NextGenTV among PMVG stations and the broader public television community, a priority for both our organizations. Viewers and communities around the
country will benefit.”

About the Public Media Venture Group: PMVG is a nonprofit business development consortium of 31 public media organizations committed to furthering the mission and financial vitality of public media by developing and implementing a range of new service opportunities focused on the local communities these public media organizations serve. PMVG is especially focused on leveraging the power of the new broadcast platform, NextGen TV. PMVG media organizations own
and operate 118 public stations that together reach 235 million people. PMVG is led by Marc Hand and a national board that consists of five of the PMVG station managers.

About Convergence Services, Inc: CSI is a strategic consulting firm focusing on spectrum utilization, disaster resilience, NextGen TV, and new service and revenue models in education, connected cars, and hybrid broadcast-broadband networks. Leading up to the FCC spectrum incentive auction in 2016, CSI provided valuation analyses to multiple television license holders and private equity investors. CSI President John Lawson has served as CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations, Executive VP of ION Media Networks, and Executive Director of the Mobile500 Alliance. Lawson was one of four signatories to the original Joint Petition that led to FCC approval of NextGen TV transmission in 2017.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Marc Hand, marc@publicmediaventure.com; 303-781-5101
John Lawson, jlawson@convg.com; 202-302-1654

Pandemic Reveals NextGen TV’s Opportunity – TV News Check

Pandemic Reveals NextGen TV’s Opportunity

COVID-19 is an international emergency — and it’s also a good opportunity to talk about the future of news with NextGen TV.

By John Lawson | April 9, 2020 | 5:29 a.m. ET | Reprinted from TV News Check

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven, once again and in a big way, the value of local TV news. Ratings are up, trust is up. Audience engagement is through the roof, as TV personalities literally welcome audiences into their homes. Even their cats are becoming stars.

At the same time, ad revenues are down, while station executives are working overtime to keep their widely dispersed staffs safe and operations humming.

So, is the present time, while TV news is both outperforming and overstressed, really the time to focus on the future of emergency news with NextGen TV? As one news thought leader told me, it’s the best of times and the worst of times to be talking about NextGen TV. News teams are focused like never before on new ways to cover emergencies, but they’re also preoccupied with just getting out the news on a 24-hour cycle.

Timely or not, we know a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. The pandemic — overwhelming but moving at a slower pace than a tornado or wildfire — combined with the imminent launch of NextGen TV, creates a unique window to talk about the future. Fortunately for the TV industry, NextGen is about taking what you’re already doing well now and elevating it to a whole new level. It’s about cementing your leadership in local news for years to come. It’s about building strength on strength.

A recent survey indicates that news professionals are beginning to understand the opportunity. In a series of webinars that the AWARN Alliance produced last summer for TV news professionals — attended by nearly 200 people — we polled the audience on this question: “Is ATSC 3.0 a game-changer for TV news?” An amazing 96% answered “yes.” When TV news pros learn about NextGen, they get it.

There also is a broader dimension beyond covering the news: NextGen and AWARN may be the key to getting ATSC 3.0 receiver chips in smartphones and connected cars, which would unlock enormous economic value for broadcasters. Improving public safety by improving alerting is a powerful argument for extending the reach of TV stations beyond fixed TV sets.BRAND CONNECTIONS

What would NextGen emergency news and information look like? It starts with geo-targeting existing newsroom workflow, aggregating it with content from public sources and distributing the feed or stream through hybrid networks. Broadcast and digital news and weather, public websites, and other ready sources may be bundled and offered to consumers in a dashboard user experience (UX).

The service may be automated or semi-automated and transmitted both over-the-air with ATSC 3.0 and over the web. Consumers might see a small icon on their TV or mobile screens telling them that new geo-targeted emergency information is available to them if they choose to select it.

Information like weather updates, flood levels, road closures, shelter locations, news conferences with emergency authorities, access to closed neighborhoods or photos of missing persons would be made available at consumers’ fingertips.

In the case of COVID-19, it might be notification that a new person within, say, five miles of where you live has tested positive for the infection.

Major news stations might use the feed as a bridge when they choose to end live, wall-to-wall coverage of an event and return to regular programming. It may serve as a source of localized news for their D2 channels that also can funnel viewers to the news channel.

Public stations that do not provide regular news coverage have expressed interest in taking emergency feeds from news stations or creating their own automated feeds as a geo-targeted lifeline for their viewers.

Through an upcoming pilot project and regional (virtual) meetings, we will continue our engagement with news professionals to develop UX templates and model workflows for launching NextGen emergency alerting and news.

We also have started parallel discussions with leading emergency managers to gather their ideas about working with their local broadcasters to use the platform. Then we will bring them all together to build model templates that can guide local stations for their own NextGen TV emergency news deployments.

Creating best practices and shaping the future of emergency news and information with NextGen TV can only be accomplished with a united industry behind us. We are proud of support from our current members in the U.S., South Korea and Japan. But many broadcasters large and small, including major networks, TV set manufacturers and B2B players are sitting on the sidelines.

We urge our potential industry partners — broadcasters and consumer electronics — to look up from the urgent business of managing the pandemic today and help the AWARN Alliance build new tools for the inevitable crises of the future.

In his management classic, Good to Great, Dr. Jim Collins shared a key finding from his research: great companies don’t assign their best people to their biggest problems, they assign them to their biggest opportunities. Successful coverage of the pandemic combined with the emerging technology of NextGen TV creates an immense opportunity for local TV to secure its place in an interconnected but vulnerable world.

John Lawson is the executive director of the AWARN Alliance and president of Convergence Services Inc., a consulting firm.