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What Is ATSC 3.0: The Latest Updates on the New Standard

October 24th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

Back in February, the industry was abuzz about ATSC 3.0 and its possibilities for transforming television, especially local TV.

There was the hope that ATSC 3.0 would lead to a more level playing field by enabling local stations to sell their data as well as leverage new technological capabilities such as on-demand.

Since then, though there has been a lot of quiet, behind-the-scenes work, the lack of public announcements has led to some questions about its progress. So, what is ATSC 3.0’s current status?

Current Build-Out Status

According to ATSC, work on ATSC 3.0 is divided into layers:

  • Physical – the core transmission system for over-the-air broadcasting usability and quality. This has been tentatively adopted by the industry.
  • Management and Protocol – the plumbing that connects the physical layer with the application layer, enabling things like delivery, personalization, and interaction. A consensus has been reached, although details are still being worked out.
  • Application and Presentation – handles viewer experiences involving video and audio coding and the run-time environment. Key features will include enhanced TV, on-demand, subscriptions, digital rights, mobile and fixed devices, and hybrid delivery with pushed content.
  • Extensibility – methods that will allow ATSC 3.0 to keep up with industry changes as the initial technology improves and advances.

Though these layers are in progress, much work remains.

Current Rollout Status

In the technical sphere, Doug Lung writes in TVTechnology that the current progress report is positive with successful technical demonstrations in individual markets. “This year’s demonstrations were similar to those from last year,” he wrote, “but more polished, with extended features. For me, it was a sign the ATSC 3.0 landscape is maturing, getting ready for rollout.”

But there is no funding to facilitate a rollout. Current noted, “Unlike during the analog-to-digital conversion a decade ago, no federal funding is available to pay for new equipment.”

For marketers, impatience is growing. They believe that the intricacies of ATSC 3.0 adoption require too many moving parts to quickly gain scale—from the inner layers of infrastructure to the outer public relations layers of investment, compliance, and agreement between corporations.

Some believe that it will take years for the standard to get into actual production by TV device manufacturers, especially since there is a lack of appropriate incentives for TV manufacturers to invest in the hardware and software. Some feel that its adoption may be too slow where the arrival at scale may not be fast enough to make a difference.

Tracy Swedlow, co-founder and CEO of TMRW Corp., has been featuring panels on what is ATSC 3.0 at the TV of Tomorrow conference for the past two years. Although she is excited, she is also realistic. “We know that integrating ATSC 3.0 chips into devices is still a ways off.”

Swedlow warned, “Further delays to enable it beyond this year will greatly retard the use of it and local broadcasters may start to look elsewhere for solutions. Proactive entrepreneurs and experienced TV app providers are moving quickly to develop solutions. Local TV is too big of a market and an opportunity not to try and make it work.”

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