Will LG’s Move to Exclude NextGen TV Tuners in 2024 TVs Hurt the New TV Format?

When I interviewed ATSC’s Madeline Noland and Pearl TV’s Anne Schelle a few months ago to see how things were progressing with the NextGen (a.k.a. ATSC 3.0) broadcast system rolling out across the country, I admit to being surprised when I was told “4K is not yet on-the-air.” I wrongly assumed 4K broadcasting was underway in at least a few markets. Not so, though I did learn that high-dynamic range (HDR)-enhanced 1080p broadcasts are happening in some markets.

In what could be a potential setback to the progress being made in the NextGen TV rollout, LG informed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month that it will not include ATSC 3.0-compatible tuners in its 2024 TVs due to a patent dispute in which LG was found to be infringing on various patents held by Constellation Designs (CD). The case also called into question the cost of licensing fees. LG is appealing.

In comments filed with the FCC, LG wrote: “This challenging and uncertain patent landscape has forced LG to make the difficult decision to suspend the inclusion of ATSC 3.0-compatibility in its 2024 television lineup for the United States. This decision was not made lightly, because LG has been a vocal ATSC 3.0 advocate, a strong supporter of local broadcasters, and a leading developer of television products with the latest NextGen TV technologies.” You can read LG’s FCC filing here.

The decision to withhold tuners from its TVs is significant because LG is the second largest TV brand in the U.S. behind Samsung.

In a recent “news bulletin” on ATSC-org, entitled “Recent ATSC 3.0 Developments Underscore Both Progress and Growing Pains,” Noland, who is president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), sought to downplay the development as another growing pain.

“While ATSC cannot comment on the specifics of the LG case, we trust that all parties involved are actively pursuing solutions to bring the benefits of next-generation broadcasting on future LG television models to U.S. audiences. The impact of this patent situation is likely very limited, according to one prominent electronics industry market analyst.”

Noland went on to highlight recent progress, including the launch of NextGen TV service in New York City, which will “push NextGen TV service to over 70% of U.S. audiences,” and the availability of the first set-top receivers to carry the NextGen TV logo, a certification that ensures ATSC 3.0 broadcasts will be properly received and decoded.

“At least two more upgrade accessories are in development and plan to ship this year, giving consumers a variety of affordable devices that will work seamlessly with the broadcast service now on-the-air,” she added, noting that by the end of the year the industry will have shipped 10 million ATSC 3.0 receivers in the U.S. “That’s remarkable for a voluntary launch — far faster than any other technology deployment I can recall.

“So, I think that perspective is important,” Noland concluded. “Every technology transition has its challenges. That’s normal. It’s a testament to the value of the technology that our collective efforts have brought ATSC 3.0 so far in such a relatively short period of time. Licensing discussions and arrangements are part of the process. ATSC is optimistic that the latest licensing issue will be resolved.”

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