Sinclair’s Mark Aitken says adoption in the the next 3-5 years of ATSC 3.0 is crucial to broadcast TV, giving it the ability “not only to meet the needs of delivering lots of bits to the home, but delivering lots of bits to portable devices. I don’t think it’s just about 4K; it’s about portability.” The new standard would “catapult broadcasting into the middle of the distribution” universe where it could compete with other TV media and provide a seamless service as viewers move in and out of their homes watching big-screen TVs, tablets and phones.
A top Sinclair Broadcast Group executive said today that broadcasting should be moving to a new more efficient broadcast standard within the next three to five years in conjunction with the FCC’s planned sell-off of some TV spectrum.
“It certainly makes sense to time a new standard with an auction scenario whether it is 6 MHz or 60 MHz that is given up,” said Sinclair VP Mark Aitken at a Content and Communications World panel session on the future of TV.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee is already at work on the new standard — ATSC 3.0, Aitken said. It “is envisioned not only to meet the needs of delivering lots of bits to the home, but delivering lots of bits to portable devices,” he said. “I don’t think it’s just about 4K; it’s about portability.”
The new standard would “catapult broadcasting into the middle of the distribution” universe where it could compete with other TV media and provide a seamless service as viewers move in and out of their homes watching big-screen TVs, tablets and phones.
“Those are all platforms that broadcasters understand that they have to be on to be relevant,” Aitken said.
Today, neither wireless broadband nor broadcasting can provide such a ubiquitous service, he said. The two-way architecture of wireless can’t handle it. “There simply aren’t enough bits.” And the current ATSC broadcast standard is also lacking. It’s not working “in an efficient and effective manner,” according to Aitken.
Although Aitken thinks it would make sense to transition to the new broadcast standard when the FCC conducts its so-called incentive auction of spectrum, he made clear that he is no fan of the auction, even though participation in it is voluntary.
The FCC has approached the auction in “a very wireless carrier-centric way,” he said. The FCC auction rulemaking “charts out a future for eliminating” the entire TV band. It opens the door for wireless carriers to come back and take “a second bite of the apple.”
Aitken also said securing the industry’s future really rests on broadcasters’ ability to “deliver a mobile, HD content package that’s universal, whether it is in the home, in the automobile, at work or sitting on the kitchen sink. We need to unify the experience of entertainment television.”
Providing content seamlessly across platforms — along with tools it measure its reach — would let TV broadcasters maximize the strength of their brands and the power of broadcast, while seeing a flow of money that “is 10-fold what you see now,” he said.
“People know television when they see it,” Aitken said. TV stations, in turn, would be able to leverage their assets. “You know the customers, you have a relationship with them you have eyeball count and you have dollars flowing. All of those are important elements,” he said.
But, he added, broadcasters first have to clear a range of hurdles — developing technology that can compete against the wireless industry and resolving content rights issues related to measuring content consumption among them.
“If you can’t put together an end-to-end value chain for all the players than you get stuck where we are today, which is a hodgepodge of everyone competing for different platforms. It’s getting the right people to sit down at the table and say let’s end the nonsense,” he said. “Let’s make a much better experience for the consumer, which drives value across platforms.”