NextGen TV’s Moment Is Upon Us

ATSC 3.0 represents a natural evolution of giving consumers choices in how and when they receive and enjoy content.

After years of testing, updated versions and enough promotion to rival any hot new product launch, the next generation of broadcast television — ATSC 3.0, or NextGen TV — is (nearly) ready for primetime.

The latest phase in the standard’s development cycle, combined with advancements in viewing technology and changing audience habits, has created the perfect market environment for executing the promise of ATSC 3.0. Consumers will get the immersive, interactive and customized content experiences they want, and broadcasters will get the options and workflow flexibility they need to migrate to IP infrastructures.

As a brief catch-up, ATSC 1.0, released in 2009, was a traditional standard designed to maintain the status quo of previous broadcasting generations while still allowing room for key advancements such as analog-to-digital conversions and HD transmissions. What it didn’t do was provide a roadmap for getting to the future outlined by ATSC 3.0, which includes support for technologies more suited to the way content is now created, distributed, received and consumed.

For all its advancements, ATSC 3.0 still leaves many open questions, starting with its deployment and adoption, aligning over-the-air (OTA) and over-the-top (OTT) content delivery, finding the most efficient route to IP and making the most of a limited frequency spectrum.

A key element of ATSC 3.0 is that it allows more IP OTT transmissions, to the point where a station can have two paths, one solely dedicated to generating an IP feed for its customer base and even sending its main programming channels over IP as opposed to OTA. The advantage here is that TVs, especially the increasingly common IP-centric smart TVs, can shift from their traditional default reception of antenna signal feeds to intelligent detection of IP feeds as their main incoming source.

This becomes more important considering ATSC 3.0 is part of the FCC’s C-Band spectrum repack, where the government has reallocated much of the TV broadcast spectrum for use by wireless carriers. Mobile devices are playing a larger role in the viewing experience, paving the way for the wider adoption of technologies such as 5G.


Some view 5G as competing with ATSC, but the ATSC standard was originally written as complementary to 5G. This allows both standards to easily share common technologies and specifications. The ATSC community can use 5G for last-mile signal reception, and handset manufacturers don’t need to build ATSC chips into their systems.

It also enables delivery methods such as IP datacasting. TV stations can broadcast their video channel but pass off part of it as a pure data path that can be sent to multiple device types. This is beneficial for software upgrades, educational purposes or any data-driven application ideal for use over multicast networks, which benefit the most from ATSC 3.0. Broadcasters also have a potential new revenue stream by selling the data channel as a complement to the video path.

While this new technology finds its place in whatever the broadcast industry ends up looking like, linear broadcasting will remain relevant, in sports and news, for example. It’s clear that IP is the future, but that doesn’t negate the need for “this is happening live, how do I watch it now?” When you look at the combined U.S. and international base of traditional broadcast infrastructures, the numbers don’t support a complete cutoff and shift to an online model. That will still take time, making hybrid models or datacasting applications the best choice as interim solutions until we get to the point of saying, “let’s turn it off.”

Like any market, we’ve gone from having one way to do things to now having multiple ways to watch, and that’s only going to grow. Consumers want choices in how and when they receive and enjoy their content. ATSC 3.0 is simply a natural evolution of that.

Dave Brass is VP of strategy and market development, North America, Ateme.

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January 27, 2023 at 3:31 am

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