By: Tom Butts
NEW YORK–At NAB Show New York this week, executives from Fox Television Stations; NBC and Telemundo Owned Stations Group; Univision; TEGNA, Inc. (for Pearl TV), and Nexstar Media Group (for SpectrumCo) announced their collaborative effort and support for the introduction of ATSC 3.0 (aka Next Gen TV).
The new standard, which was approved by the FCC a year ago, combines broadcast with IP and will introduce a far more robust and flexible UHD video service designed to compete against the increasing penetration of OTT-streaming services; however, the standard is not backward-compatible with current TV sets. The announcement this week is designed to confirm stations’ commitment to collaborating on launching ATSC 3.0 in anticipation of the market introduction of ATSC 3.0-enabled sets in 2020.
It doesn’t mean every station in these groups will be deploying the standard, but instead will collaborate with each other to provide a large enough national footprint so that a majority of American consumers will be able to receive some form of ATSC 3.0 service by the time sets appear in stores by the end of 2020. Anne Schelle, director of the Pearl TV Group–which is testing the standard via the Phoenix Model Market pilot project–said the lab provides a good example of this type of collaboration, where multiple stations are using a Univision stick to transmit test signals, while maintaining the legacy ATSC 1.0 signal, referred to as the “lighthouse” approach.
“I think the Phoenix test is a great example of how stations are collaborating on a market to market basis,” she said. “In Phoenix, we’re working of a Univision stick and we are looking to enable a second stick in the market and that allows us to start to introduce these basic services across the country.”
As far as financial commitments, Schelle said it’s too early to tell, but that “the cost to upgrade to an ATSC 3.0 lighthouse is fairly small compared to the existing infrastructure that’s already in place,” she said. But “none of the companies are prepared to provide that level of detail at this point.”
This new effort is not exclusive and will include other broadcasters with interests in next-gen TV services, including both other commercial and public TV broadcasters.
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS COMPANIES ALSO COMMITTED
In addition to the station groups, consumer electronics giants LG, Samsung and Sony also expressed their commitment to the standard. All three companies have been involved in the development of the standard.
“LG looks forward to working with these and other broadcasters and stakeholders in the Next Gen TV ecosystem to help bring the benefits of ATSC 3.0 to American consumers,” said Dr. Jong Kim, senior vice president in the office of the CTO at LG Electronics as well as president of Zenith Electronics, LG’s U.S. R&D subsidiary contributing to Next Gen TV standards.
Building on its support of the Phoenix Model Market pilot project, LG plans to provide receiver technology and expertise to support various markets from coast to coast launching Next Gen TV, Dr. Kim explained. LG already has launched 4K Ultra HD TVs with ATSC 3.0 receiver chips in South Korea.
Sony Electronics will supply televisions, demodulators and application development tools for ATSC 3.0 and is collaborating with broadcasters and other industry players in testing both technical solutions and service models. Current collaborations include the Phoenix Model Market and Test Bed, as well as launches by individual broadcast groups.
Station group CEOs expressed their enthusiasm for the standard’s deployment.
“One big challenge was whether the big owners of valuable spectrum could work together, commit resources, and stick to the game plan. Done, done and done,” said Jack Abernethy, Chief Executive Officer at FOX Television Stations.
“ATSC 3.0 is something that as an industry we have to do. The new standard will transform the way we deliver content to our audiences – including viewers who are consuming information in multiple languages and screens. ATSC 3.0 will also help us to better connect advertisers with the audiences they want to reach on any platform. We are pleased to be working with Pearl TV and our broadcast partners to ensure the new technology is set in place for both viewers and broadcasters when we are ready to roll-out the new standard,” said Valari Staab, President, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.
“Univision is excited to continue playing a leadership role in the market transition from ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0. As one of the largest TV spectrum holders in the US, we are eager to bring an enhanced audio and video experience to our audience, as well as new services and capabilities to our advertising partners,” said Vince Sadusky, Chief Executive Officer at Univision.
“Pearl TV’s 300 local broadcasters, along with our network partners, are working together to deliver a national Next-Gen TV service by the end of 2020. ATSC 3.0 offers new ways for local broadcasters to tell stories, interact with viewers, make an impact in our communities and innovate across screens and devices. The new standard will allow for clear, ultra HD signals, personalized advertising and the potential for exciting new adjacencies such as smart city infrastructure and connected vehicles,” said Dave Lougee, President and CEO of TEGNA, Inc., one of the Pearl TV broadcast group members.
“SpectrumCo and Pearl TV consortium members are aligned in our commitment to the voluntary scaled adoption of the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard across the U.S.,” said Perry Sook, President & CEO of Nexstar Media Group, representing SpectrumCo. “Advancing the ATSC 3.0 standard is critical to facilitating future innovation in the local broadcast television industry. With more than 350 SpectrumCo stations participating and additional new members in the pipeline, SpectrumCo broadcasters will add immense scale and depth to the collaborative industry wide rollout of ATSC 3.0. With this new technology broadcasters will be able to bring consumers more localized programming content and a host of other innovative NextGen TV services, while creating new revenue opportunities for our respective businesses in growing areas of the digital economy.”
The Phoenix Model Market pilot project launched nearly one year ago and the pilot project has offered testing for broadcast equipment implementation, new services, and technology offerings to show how the ATSC 3.0 standard could be deployed by broadcasters while maintaining existing digital service for viewers. The Phoenix DMA is home to more than 1.8 million households with more than one in five viewers relying on over-the-air reception. Participating TV groups and stations in the Phoenix Model Market include: Arizona State University’s Arizona PBS (KAET) , Arizona Television’s KAZT Channel 7 (Independent), E.W. Scripps’ KNXV (ABC), Fox Television Stations’ KSAZ (Fox) and KUTP (MyTV), Meredith’s KPHO (CBS) and KTVK (Independent), Nexstar Media Group’s KASW (CW); Telemundo Station Group’s KTAZ (Telemundo), TEGNA’s KPNX (NBC), and Univision’s KFPH-CD (UniMas) and KTVW (Univision).
CONSUMER INTEREST IN NEXT GEN TV IS HIGH, ACCORDING TO MAGID
Pearl TV’s initial activities in Phoenix provide an open test bed and a proving ground for technology, implementations, and new services. A September 2018 consumer survey conducted by Magid for Pearl TV and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) shows exceptionally strong consumer interest in a Next Gen TV service that will offer all the programming of live over-the-air TV (such as local news, live sports, programming from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other broadcast networks) and adds improved features that can enhance the viewing experience for consumers.
In the Phoenix Model Market partners /CTA survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers ages 18-74, Magid registered “solid overall interest in and high likelihood to use” the next-gen ATSC 3.0 concept. The research also shows that the Next Gen TV concept is most appealing with younger consumers and those who are defined as “Early Adopters” because of their positive attitude toward technology.
Magid’s research shows 42 percent of those interested in ATSC 3.0 say they anticipate buying a new TV to enable and enjoy next-gen TV services. Overwhelmingly, 96 percent of the Core Target (those who rated the concept Very Appealing and Very Likely to use next-gen TV) said they were likely to buy a new TV set to experience Next Gen TV.
Source: TV Technology