Hearst-Argyle Television's ( HTV) CEO sketched out a vision of the communications business Tuesday that would harness the mighty power of the television to the growing reach of the humble telephone. David Barrett, chief executive of the large broadcasting group, reached out to telcos Tuesday in a speech to the U.S. Telecom Association. In his remarks, Barrett embraced Internet protocol television, or IPTV, while taking aim at the cable industry and Washington over digital carriage and other competitive issues. Hearst-Argyle, owner of 25 TV stations across the U.S., is hoping to align itself with telecommunications companies so that broadcasters' new digital programming content can be combined with IPTV services, to the mutual benefit of both industries and of local consumers. Barrett's words come as telcos like Verizon ( VZ) and SBC ( SBC) forge new ground in video, and cable companies such as Cablevision ( CVC) and Comcast ( CMCSA) line up to launch phone service. The industries are starting to encroach on one another by offering services outside their traditional scope as technology applications change. While local TV stations continue to prosper, Barrett's speech comes as some old school broadcast groups are feeling marginalized by changing technology and the incremental offerings of satellite and cable companies. "The timing of your entry into the video distribution business could not be more opportune," Barrett told telecom hard-hitters. "Just as you are revolutionizing the way local television signals are distributed to viewers, broadcasters are revolutionizing the content of local television programming. Our new high-definition technology promises to take local television service to a new level. And new compression and 'multicasting' technologies could allow each local television station to broadcast multiple different digital programming streams within a single digital signal." Barrett laid out the case for the partnerships saying that through multicasting, TV broadcasters are first informers during elections and disasters such as hurricanes. He also took on legislative forces in Washington that his company and some telecoms are running up against.
"Given our shared commitment to expanding choice and enhancing content, the sooner we embark on this partnership the better," Barrett said. "We are in the throes of a political battle in Washington with your cable and satellite competitors who want to restrict consumer access to multicast programming. If telephone companies can help us secure multicast carriage for all television viewers, you will find broadcasters across America welcoming your arrival to the program distribution market." Barrett also highlighted broadcasters' efforts to seek cable and satellite carriage of broadcasters' full digital signals. "We are not asking distributors to carry additional channels," he said. "We are simply asking cable to carry our digital signal in its entirety -- and to prohibit cable operators from blocking or stripping out streams they feel may be too competitive with cable programming. So what broadcasters really want might better be termed an 'anti-content-stripping' rule."