NextGen TV: A Progress Report Page 2

S&V: From the broadcaster’s perspective, the move to ATSC 3.0 is voluntary and as you noted comes with the challenge and expense of maintaining compatibility with current (ATSC 1.0) broadcasts. How big of an impediment is this for broadcasters and, ultimately, viewers?
Noland: Unlike the last transition — when broadcasters were loaned a separate channel so that they could launch digital broadcasts alongside their analog channels — this transition does not involve a mandate, nor any loaned spectrum. So broadcasters are learning to work together collaboratively. Some will carry multiple ATSC 1.0 stations so viewers don’t lose access to current programming. At the same time, other stations will become host stations for ATSC 3.0 signals. During this transition, viewers will have access to both services, though it is possible they will need to rescan their television sets. It may be a few years of collaborative work, but the goal is to transition eventually to ATSC 3.0 signals throughout the country — delivering more choices, more channels, and more services to viewers.

S&V: In early 2019 Nielsen reported a substantial upswing in the number of U.S. TV households that use an antenna to get TV. The report said 14% of U.S. households (about 16 million) were tuning into broadcast TV — up 48% from the 11 million homes that received over-the-air TV broadcasts eight years earlier. The increase was attributed, in part, to people dropping cable TV subscriptions, a.k.a. “cord-cutting.” What percentage of U.S. households get TV over the air today?
Noland: ATSC doesn’t track over-the-air signal reception, but many other organizations (including Nielsen) do, though we’ve heard the number could be reaching 20%. But it’s important to realize that not every over-the-air antenna viewer is doing so because they want to be “cord cutters.” It’s common in many households to have several TV options — some that are subscription-based like cable, satellite, and streaming services, and others that may be free over-the-air.

S&V: What’s the trend moving forward — and what’s driving that trend? And, more to the point, where does ATSC 3.0 TV fit in, and does it benefit from the trend or even help propel it?
Noland: Probably the biggest trend maker is the explosion of services available through streaming media. Originally, smart TV sets were connected in very few households. Now the overwhelming majority of smart TVs are connected to the internet, and most are also connected to other pay TV or free TV sources. So it’s been the growth in choice that has led consumers to choose the range of services and options that are most appealing to them.

ATSC 3.0 is not exclusively an antenna-based experience. In fact, we think there is more opportunity for broadcasters in bringing together the best of over-the-air and the best of over-the-top (streaming) experiences. A local broadcaster will now be able to stream the weather, sports updates, the news, or other programming — as well as offer over-the-air services. And it’s likely that you’ll see ATSC 3.0 utilized to bring new services to consumers and new revenue options for broadcasters. The standard is really more than 20 different standards that fit together to give broadcasters many more options than the “one size fits all” nature of the original ATSC 1.0 digital TV standard.

S&V: Evoca is one example of a new consumer service that also provides a revenue opportunity for broadcasters. Can you give another example or two of other new services we might see?
Noland: As I mentioned earlier, full-power television broadcasters will continue to offer free over-the-air television. New revenue opportunities may include targeted advertising and potentially B2B services using the “Broadcast Internet” capabilities of ATSC 3.0, to name just a couple.

S&V: Samsung, LG, and Sony announced around 20 ATSC 3.0-ready TVs earlier this year, most of which are high-end sets. What are you hearing from TV makers about their plans for expanding TV options moving forward, especially at the more the popular price points? Will we see more brands announcing ATSC 3.0 compatibility at CES 2021?
Noland: In fact, more than 25 new NextGen TV models are available now, and they range from models under $1,000 to very high-end 8K models. The three largest TV manufacturers — LG, Samsung, and Sony — account for more than half of all smart TV sales in the U.S. They collectively announced 20 models for 2020 at the January CES but have since introduced more than originally planned. And yes, we think there will be other brands and lower price points in future years — as was the case when high-definition TVs first reached stores back in 1998. One big difference is speed. Manufacturers are even more competitive now, so it’s likely that we’ll see many more choices and brands committing to NextGen TV for the 2021 model year.

S&V: If asked to isolate the single-most important feature or benefit NextGen TV — the one you think will appeal to the broadest possible audience — what do you say?
Noland: While it’s tempting to highlight 4K Ultra HDTV as the “blows you away” feature, I actually think that the entire experience will make the sale. Broadcasters will be able offer an over-the-air signal that takes full advantage of today’s display technologies and local stations will begin to offer on-demand programming about the local community that has been relegated to websites before the innovations of ATSC 3.0 broadcasting.

S&V: To wrap up, I understand a website and campaign aimed at educating consumers about NextGen TV is afoot. Can you tell us about that?
Noland: Pearl TV is launching a campaign to help educate consumers about the wonders of NextGen TV. They will soon be launching a new consumer-facing website,, which is part of a broader effort to educate viewers in key markets where ATSC 3.0 is “on the air” and remind them that ATSC 3.0 is a feature they should consider if they’re in the market for a new TV set. Of course, having an ATSC 3.0-capable TV is a very important ingredient for reception. ATSC will continue offering information to our industry about the market-by-market deployment of ATSC 3.0 for the benefit of our member broadcasters, and equipment and component suppliers.

Chris Teeh's picture

I have been waiting for it but I have yet to see any tuners for sale. I just upgraded my TV to one with HDMI 2.1 and I am not going through it again. The FCC should not be too involved in what electronic manufacturers and broadcaster choose to do. I also hope that this will be the FINAL OTA upgrade, because we do not need to keep seeing these change as TV's tech changes!

We need for there to be a maxed out quality signal and then set it and forget it. ATSC 3.0 seems like a good way to set it and forget it, but they could keep this for the next 50 years. I think TV broadcasts in 4K HDR will suffice. If nothing else, switch to 1080P. On the other hand, it does threaten 4K blu-ray... To a degree...

jnemesh's picture

I just bought a 65" Sony X900H (well, actually the Costco version, the X90CH, same set though)...and it already includes the ATSC 3.0 tuner! I believe it needs a firmware update to enable it though...and I am still waiting for Seattle to go online with ATSC 3.0 in any case. But I AM excited for the new broadcasts, and for (hopefully) watching the Tokyo Olympics next year in 4k via OTA!'s picture

So, Chris mentioned that he has not seen any ATSC 3.0 tuners for sale. Does anyone have information as to when and if we will be able to purchase one? I have a very nice 4K TV, but it does not have a 3.0 tuner. Retired now so won't ever have the ability to get a new TV with a 3.0 tuner.