New Federal Communications chairman Ajit Pai is fast-tracking the rollout of the ATSC 3.0 next-gen broadcast TV standard.
Pai has circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to the other commissioners that would allow TV stations to deploy ATSC 3.0, also referred to as Next Gen TV, on a voluntary basis. The standard defines IP broadcasts, and can enable local TV stations to more effectively warn viewers in emergencies and develop new services for an IP-based wireless broadcast network that extends from coast to coast. It enables the delivery of Ultra HDTV and HDR signals over the air, with enhanced audio, hybrid broadband and linear TV experiences, improved emergency alerting and accessibility features, support for broadcast video-on-demand content (a first), and enhanced advertising targeting to reach specific segments of viewers.
Station groups representing nearly 400 US TV broadcasters and a host of broadcasting equipment and service suppliers released a planning guide for a transition to ATSC 3.0 last October; also in October, Cleveland’s FOX affiliate WJW-TV became the first local TV station to air a live ATSC 3.0 broadcast of a major professional sporting event – Major League Baseball’s World Series.
US viewers are looking forward to ATSC 3.0, according to a survey from Pearl TV, an organisation of eight large station groups which collectively operate more than 220 local TV stations.
“As broadcasters focused on the development and deployment of new technology, Pearl is pleased that the FCC is poised to launch a rulemaking that would allow the voluntary adoption of next-generation TV. ATSC 3.0 will give broadcasters the tools they need to compete in a vastly different environment than when digital TV was first imagined. The move to an internet protocol-based system will deliver more content to viewers from more sources and insure that over-the-air broadcasting remains the primary resource for breaking news, emergency alerts and a TV experience tailored to the desires of the viewer,” said Pearl TV managing director Anne Schelle.
Pearl’s data finds that 68% of consumers rate the new capabilities of the ATSC 3.0 standard as ‘very appealing.’ More than two-thirds of those surveyed like the idea of enhanced emergency alerts on all devices when it matters most, including with the approach of severe weather. And respondents said they appreciated the fact that broadcast services will likely work even when cell reception and traditional cable service would be down and out of service.
More than half of those surveyed said they would be looking for a product that offered HDR to enhance viewing, and two-thirds of those surveyed said they were looking forward to immersive audio that raises audio reproduction to a new level. The capability to personalise content, customise the viewing experience and use a range of interactive features also ranked high with survey respondents.
"Next Gen TV matters because it will let broadcasters offer much better services in a variety of ways," wrote Pai, in a blog post.
"Picture quality will improve with 4K transmissions. Accurate sound localisation and customisable sound mixes will produce an immersive audio experience. Broadcasters will be able to provide advanced emergency alerts with more information, more tailored to a viewer’s particular location. Enhanced personalisation and interactivity will enable better audience measurement, which in turn will make for higher-quality advertising — ads relevant to you and that you actually might want to see. Perhaps most significantly, consumers will easily be able to watch over the air programming on mobile devices."
The Advanced Television Standards Commission (ATSC), which is responsible for authoring the spec, naturally lauded the move. “The development of ATSC 3.0 is a landmark in broadcasting, with hundreds of the best technical minds in the industry working on this next generation technology,” said Mark Richer, president, ATSC.
“The ATSC sees the commission’s Notice as another important step forward for Next Gen TV. Core elements of the ATSC 3.0 standard already are approved and proven, which we hope will give the FCC and broadcasters confidence for voluntary implementation of ATSC 3.0. We’ll look forward to seeing how various stakeholders respond to the commission’s Notice, and we’re hopeful that the NPRM process will be completed in a timely manner.”