Top 4 ‘Outrageous Myths’ About ATSC 3.0

With the FCC poised to approve the use of the new broadcast standard tomorrow, One Media EVP Jerry Fritz takes on the critics of the standard and the "horror stories" they tell about its impact on consumers and MVPDs.

It’s that strange time. The period between release of a draft of a proposed FCC action and the actual commission vote. It’s when all manner of scare tactics and last-ditch efforts to influence votes are on display. Many involve purveying outlandish horror stories in support of bizarre narratives. So, now’s an excellent time to puncture the most outrageous myths surrounding the upcoming vote to authorize Next Gen TV or ATSC 3.0. Facts are powerful things.

MYTH 1: TV viewers will lose access to their favorite 1.0 programs. To accept this canard would mean that broadcasters, their shareholders, financial lenders, and the entire advertising industry would abandon billions and billions of dollars in ongoing revenues and crater their companies for the promise of better TV on the horizon. That’s just silly. Broadcasters have every incentive to maintain relationships with their current viewers. No one — but no one — is going to be substituting high school football for the Super Bowl. That would be economic suicide. And no viewer will need to buy new receive devices to view current programming unless they want to upgrade to devices with new features. Think cell phone upgrades. And with free mobile reception on the horizon, we expect just that while non-adopters will continue to view their programs as they do today.

MYTH 2: Current high-definition programming will be abandoned.  Without a second channel to facilitate the move to the Next Gen standard, broadcasters have devised a creative, channel-sharing plan to offer expanded opportunities to viewers.  Mandating specific formats that halt that process has the effect of freezing technology to only what is available today. Why in the world would we or the government limit innovation? Oh, right. It protects the MVPD distribution bottleneck. That’s a particularly craven argument and creates the environment for a two-tier TV world, one where the economically disadvantaged are stuck in a 1.0 world. See No. 1, above.

MYTH 3: The Next Gen Standard is all about Sinclair’s “many, many” patents. There are close to 9,500 patents/applications that have been publicly disclosed to the ATSC related to the new standard.  Sinclair/One Media has … 12 of them. That’s right, 12. That’s 0.13% of all ATSC 3.0-related patents — an absurdly thin motivation for unleashing an entire industry from its 20-year shackles. The business upside for Next Gen TV simply dwarfs by orders of magnitude any possible patent royalties that Sinclair might realize from this non-mandated standard deployment. And it is a standard supported by the entire broadcast and consumer manufacturing industries.

MYTH 4: Cable rates will skyrocket as broadcasters force ATSC 3.0 on MVPDs in retrans negotiations. To be quite clear, MVPDs will continue to receive ATSC 1.0 programming (mostly via fiber feeds) just as they do today and no system will be required to reconfigure its distribution plant — unless it wants to. The video and audio quality of Next Gen TV is spectacular. It will be available for all to witness in Korea during the Winter Olympics in just three months. Once deployed in the U.S., it is the MVPDs which will likely be clamoring for the broadcasters’ Next Gen signals, not the other way around. It will be fascinating to see how MVPDs press for access to the superior Next Gen signals. Watch to see whether that isn’t one of their new demands from broadcasters.

All in all, innovation is about to be unleashed to the benefit of viewers, broadcasters and competition in general. Myths notwithstanding.


Jerald Fritz is One Media’s EVP for strategic and legal affairs and plays a key role in shaping One Media’s next generation broadcast platform. Co-owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group and Coherent Logix, One Media helped develop the ATSC 3.0 standard and is now pioneering business applications for it.

Comments (20)

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Gregg Palermo says:

November 15, 2017 at 8:45 am

The reason Myth #3 might still be an issue is the linchpin issue. If you build toilets and Kohler has the *only* method for flushing as one of its “only” 12 patents, you’re still beholden to Kohler in a way that might not be fair, unless you have found a market for a toilet that does not flush. It’s not the percentage of patents but the *critical need* for those .13% patents.

    David Siegler says:

    November 15, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I won’t disagree that the critical nature of the patents may vary based on just what they address, but do you think that the .13% that Sinclair holds are the only potentially critical patents in the pool? I would think that some of the remaining 99.87% of patents are more critical and others less critical.

Amneris Vargas says:

November 15, 2017 at 9:43 am

Myth #5: Your current TV will stop working. Inexpensive devices/dongles will be available and your current TV will still work. Put it in the bedroom though, cuz you’re going to want that new 3.0 set in the living room (UHD, immersive audio, all sorts or new information and entertainment services).

Hugh Haynie says:

November 15, 2017 at 11:32 am

This entire article is a straw man, and #3 is a joke. # of patents doesn’t matter. Value of patents does.

Ellen Samrock says:

November 15, 2017 at 11:48 am

Well, let’s hope this puts a cork in Jessica “Chicken Little” Rosenworcel’s fear-mongering over 3.0. Her “The sky is falling” concern for consumers, while touching, is blatantly disingenuous given her past overt animosity toward the broadcast industry, an animosity she shared with her former boss, Tom Wheeler.

Snead Hearn says:

November 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I think Jessica is just on this resist, deflect and attack agenda so I don’t see her changing. Understanding is not what she is really concerned with as it relates to the broadcast industry.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    November 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Exactly. For once I agree with CTA prez Gary Shapiro that the rollout of ATSC 3.0 should not be politicized. And yet the Dems are demanding that Chairman Pai recuse himself from voting on it because of Sinclair or something which will lead to a 2-2 tie. I highly doubt he’ll do that. There’s too much at stake here.

Shenee Howard says:

November 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Nothing here disutes stations will go SD during transition, and that is not acceptable.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    November 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    On a technical level, you’d have to think that would be the case in some markets – just not enough bits on a lighthouse station to do all signals in HD. And, according to the erudite poster @Insider, OTA viewers don’t matter anyways, as they are not “Nielsen Families” and “excluded from sample.”

    Ellen Samrock says:

    November 15, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    With a high quality stat mux encoder, a broadcaster could conceivably fit three 720p MPEG2 TS on a 19.39 megabit data stream, including PSIP and other overhead.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    November 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    That’s very true, possibly even four. But we’re talking about the lighthouse station here which would need to carry the HD 1.0 signals for all stations in a market. Certainly there could be more than one lighthouse station, but do the math for some large markets and that will be quite a few. Hence why I agree with your that LPTV stations may have to come into play (despite what @Insider suggests).

    Ellen Samrock says:

    November 15, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Exactly. I’m thinking that some markets will need more than one lighthouse station. And, yes, LPTV stations can play a significant role here.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 15, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    I’ve stated what was going to happen (much to both of your LPTV thinking and dismay) the same thing I posted 2 years ago. Plans have not changed. LPTV not needed. Only LPTV to be used will be those few owned by owners of REAL TV facilities.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    November 15, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Um, contradict yourself much? You just said LPTV stations would not be needed and then turned around and said some would be used. By the way, no dismay here.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    November 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Cybil the Soothsayer disguised as Insider knows the entire future of LPTV and 3.0 and condescends to grace us with his wisdom. Yeah, right.

Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

November 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Myth # 5: MVPDs will pass all the bells and whistles in 3.0 through their systems. Didn’t happen in 1.0, won’t happen in 3.0. At best, MVPDs will be more than happy to provide main channel programming in UHD format. Any thing else is just a pipe dream.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 15, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    From the guy who cannot even get his cable only parttime SD station on HD or Fulltime.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    November 15, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Got it. You can’t debate the statement so you resort to ad hominem attacks (and still can’t discern which nouns should be capitalized.)

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    November 16, 2017 at 12:30 am

    @Insider: And by the way, as proven before, you have no understanding of what you’re saying about my channel. Why exactly would I convert to HD before the cable company here has completed its conversion process to a fully-digital system? If I did, I would lose likely more than half of my potential viewers – and that would be an incredibly stupid move from an ad sales / viewership standpoint. This is the same reason “broadcasters” lobbied the FCC to force cable companies to put their signals on in HD and continue an analog version after the broadcast digital conversion – a digital-only signal would have far, far less penetration than the combination. Unfortunately, I don’t have the NAB or other lobbying groups in my pocket. So until cable here goes completely digital – and that is in the process, currently with a digital overlay of channels, including mine – I’ll remain on the analog tier with the highest penetration. Technically, I could “lease” a second channel and put my channel on in HD, but the return on the investment would not be worth the expense. The cable company is estimating that enough DTAs (set top boxes) will be in place in the next two to four years for analog to be eliminated (other than a small tier perhaps for bulk accounts). I’ve already been shooting and producing HD content for over a year and by that time I should have equipment in the transmission chain (mainly video server) upgraded completely. That will be the logical and financially responsible time to launch HD. But do keep showing your ignorance as to how things work in the real world.

Trudy Rubin says:

November 16, 2017 at 9:57 am

Myth #1. Broadcaster may have an incentive for lighthouse stations, but from an OTA standpoint how could you ever match broadcast contours. Some people will lose ATSC 1.0 OTA, you will not be able to avoid it. That said if I had a choice between getting ATSC 1.0 or ATSC 3.0, I want the 3.0.. Should be Interesting to see some 3.0 consumer receivers. You could have stations free to broadcast in 3.0 standard long before any 3.0 receivers are available to the public.

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