Speaking on a panel at an industry conference in New York Thursday, Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy said he was far from sold on ATSC 3.0, the new broadcasting TV standard now pending FCC approval.
“From a technology standpoint, it’s a 10, the capability is terrific,” said Abernethy. “In terms of business models, we’re maybe at a 5. But we’re working on it.”
But three of Abernethy’s fellow panelists at TVNewsCheck‘s TV2020: Monetizing ATSC 3.0 conference expressed unqualified enthusiasm for implementing the standard. They maintained it would enhance their existing business of serving high-quality programming for viewers and advertisers, while potential new services like targeted advertising and datacasting could mean significant revenue growth.
David Smith, executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group, said that the standard will open up a host of new businesses that will transform broadcasting into a fast-growing industry once again.
“There will be no shortage of thought, and business models rolling off the back of this thing…. The opportunity is unlimited,” said Smith, whose group now counts 173 stations in 81 markets.
“It’s essential for this industry to survive to have ATSC 3.0 in the marketplace as fast as possible.”
“There’s a ton of upside,” agreed Raycom Media CEO Pat LaPlatney. “We’ve just got to move as quickly as possible to roll it out.”
“We’re all in,” added Perry Sook, CEO of Nexstar Broadcasting, which will operate 171 stations reaching 62 markets after its acquisition of Media General is complete. “It’s the next technological revolution of our business. At a base level, it will provide an enhanced viewing experience for viewers and advertisers. It’s just a matter of rolling it out.”
Sook said making the initial transition would cost $250,000 to $500,000 per call-letter station, which he said was an easily digestible investment. Building out the full capabilities of 3.0 through a multi-transmitter single-frequency network (SFN) architecture would raise the tab considerably, but that wouldn’t have to be done right away.
“It will be more of a crawl-walk-run type of build,” he said.
Smith said that previous efforts by broadcasters to launch new businesses with their spectrum, such as the iBlast datacasting initiative and Fox and NBC’s Mobile Content Venture aimed at mobile TV, had failed because of inferior technology. He said that wouldn’t happen with 3.0, which Sinclair has already been broadcasting successfully in Washington and Baltimore.
Smith said that another of the key benefits is the ability to broadcast to mobile devices.
And because the 3.0 system is designed to use an IP backchannel to connect with receiver devices such as smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, other opportunities identified by the proponents were addressable advertising and viewer measurement.
Smith said that broadcasters don’t believe the measurement numbers coming from Nielsen and comScore, and that Sinclair is developing its own measurement system for 3.0, which it will eventually make accessible to the entire industry.
Abernethy was fully behind that idea: “I think coming up with a measurement system is the most important thing for this industry, and I have been frustrated with the lack of effort on that .… If we could create a measuring system that was actually accurate, that would be more valuable in my view than everything else we’ve described.”
See all of TVNewsCheck’s TV2020 coverage here.