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How 5G Technology Will Change the Local TV Business

October 10th, 2019   ||    by John R. Osborn

The next generation of cellular technology is almost here. 5G promises to “greatly enhance the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless,” noted CNET. Up to 100 times faster than a typical cellular connection, it’s poised to change communications as we know it.

Beyond smartphones and even driverless cars, according to PC Magazine, what does 5G mean for the television landscape, especially local TV?

What Is 5G?

5G technology’s improved communication speed and ability to interact with other internet-connected devices (with a fraction of 4G latency) makes it a powerful technology for interactivity. Latency is reduced to “as little as 1 millisecond,” reported CNET. This kind of responsiveness allows for the inevitable driverless cars and is a vast improvement on the current 20-millisecond lag time.

While wireless carriers hope to justify premium pricing for these improvements, they will also compete with current cable/satellite operators for home Wi-Fi connectivity services. However, 5G will effectively put an end to broadband monopolies.

How Will 5G Technology Affect Local TV?

The marriage of 5G to the most important advance in TV technology—ATSC 3.0 (or what’s now being called NextGen TV)—will open tremendous opportunities for broadcast stations and their advertising clients.

Shereta Williams, president of Videa, explained in Adweek that “Broadcasters can learn to customize viewer experiences, leverage cutting-edge technology for personalized advertising and display companion content on a smaller device as viewers watch television.”

Stations will be able to employ new distribution pathways to viewers and their smart devices beyond local broadcast and MVPD set-top boxes (STBs). For the first time, stations could offer addressable and interactive TV advertising through 5G networks connected to smart TVs via Automated Content Recognition (ACR) and Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) technologies.

Access to home smart TVs will no longer be controlled by the set-top box, and local TV content will continue to have an important place among the many OTT viewing options. It will be able to directly compete with streaming video services and “skinny bundles” like AT&T’s Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu TV, and Apple TV.

What Are the Benefits for Local Buyers?

Local buyers will enjoy addressability, audience measurement, and ad spend accountability that former broadcast-only stations have never been able to offer.

Buyers will soon be able to make TV buys on safe, reliable local station programming across direct to consumer, legacy automated buying platforms, and streaming video aggregators (e.g., Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, TiVo).

It’s a brave new world for local TV content distributors, ad sellers, and buyers as the roles of broadcasters, telcos, and MVPD operators become a game of musical chairs in the next five years. The top prizes will surely go to whoever can manage these changes with a viewer-first approach.

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