Question: Who is the smartest person in television?

May 6, 2007

Is it Les Moonves? Is it Albert Chang? Is it Charlie Ergen? Is it Rupert Murdoch? You could make a pretty strong case for all of them. Perhaps the smartest person in television is actually Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. After all, convergence is upon us… Big screen, little screen, any screen, all screens…

The Real Answer: Why Hans Rabong, of course. I’ll tell you why later.

Last Saturday was perhaps one of the finest days of my career and I didn’t even go to work. In this era of the Internet entrepreneur, those of us who’ve had ideas at one time or another can sit back and watch as others either use or don’t use our technology. For me, Saturday was a banner day and it wasn’t even because of TitanTV. I didn’t even know it was coming.

Saturday Yahoo! News picked up an AP story written by Joe Milicia entitled, “Rabbit ears” find new life in HDTV age. In a testament to the true power of the Internet, that little story on Yahoo! News nearly brought our servers to a screeching halt. Nearly…  As volume to www.antennaweb.org went up nearly 20 times Saturday, my Blackberry was in a constant state of shock as the results rolled in. Ms Titan nearly chucked my BB off into the woods. Our IT team went into crisis mode, adding additional capacity to the generally sleepy little site.

Antennaweb started out in 1998 as www.antennaselector.com, our antenna selector technology (AST) and was essentially a labor of love…at least for me. I’ve always seen our role as connecting broadcasters to viewers and our AST does exactly that. It came to me one day when a television industry icon,  Stan Hubbard, gave a presentation on a truly revolutionary approach to helping consumers get the right antenna. The Hubbard family had created a paper mapping program to assist at retail. Well, before the presentation was even over, I’d gone out to the lobby of the hotel and called Mini Titan and Dr. Titan.

Both Doc and Mini agreed we could create a web-based technology to match reception characteristics with antenna polar patterns and thus recommend the ideal over-the-air antenna at each household in the U.S. Not knowing exactly what the outcome would be, we built AST and we waited for people to use it. In 2002 we joined forces with the Consumer Electronics Association and re-launched our AST behind www.antennaweb.org. On a normal day, 7,000 – 10,000 people use the site to select the optimal off-air antenna.

So why is Hans Rabong the smartest person in television? Hans doesn’t work for a network. He doesn’t work for a cable channel. He doesn’t even work for a local television affiliate. Hans Rabong works for a company called Winegard. Winegard is a world leader in manufacturing off-air antennas. Hans taught me about antennas. Hans worked with our team to perfect our AST. Hans is a smart guy. He sparked my passion for FREE over-the-air television.

So this past Saturday, as my wife begrudgingly glanced down at my BB buzzing yet again, I couldn’t help but think back to the time nearly ten years ago when Hans taught us about antennas. As February 17, 2009 approaches and more articles get written about the virtues of FREE TV, I am sure we’ll enjoy more and more days like this past Saturday. At the end of the day, the keys to the transition from analog to digital are simple: Check Channels – what channels will you get? Check Content – what is available to you in HD? Check Antenna – what antenna do you need to get the channels and the content? Thanks Joe Milicia for bringing attention to our technology.