Search Begins for New TV Standard

Remember the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC)? They’re the folks who spent years hammering out the digital broadcast television standard that has brought high def and standard def to antenna-loving TV addicts around the nation. Now the standard-setting body is seeking proposals to replace the core transmission system for ATSC broadcasting. The ATSC 3.0 standard will use the latest in compression and transmission technologies to accommodate ultra-def video, mobile video reception, and greater efficiency in spectrum use. The process is just getting under way with a call for proposals, and several years will probably pass before the new standard emerges in final form.

dnoonie's picture

For the TV shows still dedicated to image and sound quality this will be great. We've gotten standard def DVD quality and sometimes a little better out of "HD" broadcast, perhaps we'll get blu-ray quality out of "ultra-def" broadcast.

My concern is price and acquisition quality. We don't need to broadcast more "reality TV" with it's grainy, shaky, blown-out or dark images with sound so bad subtitles are required, a lot of youtube stuff is better. If the cost is too high and the result is more faked up "reality TV" then it's not worth it.

triforce7's picture

While the upgrade to the system sounds great, I'm thinking cable companies will use this as an excuse to raise prices.

zoetmb's picture

This has nothing to do with cable - this is about over-the-air broadcast television. And OTA broadcast is already highly efficient - if they make it more efficient that's going to mean they're going to be applying tons of compression, even if it would also deliver (presumably) higher resolution.

The OTA broadcasters (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, WB owned and operated + local stations) did not even want to move from analog SD to digital because they saw no way to monetize the investment. They certainly will not want to change their infrastructure again, because once more, they will not get one more penny in advertising revenues if they broadcast in UHD as opposed to HD.

Furthermore, relatively few people take their signal OTA. Most people get their signals via cable or satellite. And people are abandoning those in favor of generally lower quality web access. The concept of scheduled TV watching of a linear broadcast schedule is also going away. So what's the point of providing higher quality when more and more people seem to be happy watching their TV shows on a phone or pad? I love my Blu-ray, but with U.S. gross revenues of about $2.2 billion a year in the U.S., that's practically still a niche market. Even the U.S. record industry, which most consider "dead", still does $7 billion a year. The reality is that most people couldn't care less about picture or sound quality. When I walk into neighbors apartments, half the time they're watching the SD cable channel on their HD set because they don't understand the difference. I usually try to convince them to let me "deprogram" the SD channels, but they're always suspect.

FOX has even threatened to abandon OTA television altogether because they're so angry that the courts ruled that Aereo can continue to operate. Since standards can easily take 10 years to be approved and another 10 years to be implemented, by the time a new TV standard would find its way into the market around 2033, I doubt very much whether OTA broadcast television will still exist. In fact, even cable linear TV may not exist by then. Instead, services will provide large libraries of TV shows and you simply pick what you want to watch when you want to watch it.

And the last factor is that the Government would love to get those frequencies back from the broadcasters so they can auction them off for uses they consider far more important. While no politician will come out and say they want to abandon OTA TV, it's eventually going to happen because the bandwidth is needed for cell phones and other such devices and because the Government needs the money. So again, I think there's only a slim chance that over-the-air TV still exists in 20 years.