2018 Preview: ATSC 3.0 will get closer to becoming a real TV technology

ATSC NAB
The Next-Gen Hub at NAB Show 2017. (Ben Munson)
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our 2018 Preview feature, which looks at the big topics facing the industry next year. Click here for the 2018 preview in wireless, click here for the 2018 preview in cable and video, and click here for the 2018 preview in the wireline industry.

ATSC 3.0 will officially transition from broadcast television industry buzzword into a commercial technology in 2018, or at least it will officially begin its journey toward consumers.

When in November the FCC authorized the standard, huge ATSC 3.0 proponent and investor Sinclair Broadcast Group jumped right up and proclaimed its nationwide ambitions for the standards, which include enhanced audio and video quality for OTA broadcasts and interactive features enabled by the IP-based delivery.

"As we have pressed for 20 years, broadcasters and consumers alike deserve the best innovations available. We finally have that ability and are ready to lead an industry in deployment, service offerings, enhancements and business development. We are ‘off the plateau’ and ready to climb the next mountain along with our broadcast brethren, manufacturers, programmers and new business partners, looking down on wondrous new opportunities. There should only be upside for all concerned—including most importantly, the Public!” said Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith.

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I’ll be watching carefully as Sinclair pursues its nationwide deployment of ATSC 3.0 while also tracking a number of other important developments surrounding the technology.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Technology Association just kicked off their “living laboratory” ATSC 3.0 test station in Cleveland and it will be fascinating to watch what comes out of those experiments “across a variety of applications and with fixed and mobile receivers in a real-world environment,” according to CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

All the way down in Phoenix, in a much different climate than Cleveland, another impressive group of companies is just getting to work on setting up an ATSC 3.0 model market. E.W. Scripps Company, Fox Television Stations, Meredith Local Media Group, Nexstar Media Group, TEGNA, Telemundo Station Group, Univision Communications, and Pearl TV are working together to prove ATSC 3.0 technology can be deployed while maintaining existing digital TV service for viewers.

This coming year will be an interesting time to watch ATSC 3.0 mature in real-world settings while also watching broadcasters address concerns, like how the changeover might impact consumers and how OTA viewers will adjust to having their data harvesting a la Facebook and Google. — Ben | @fierce_video