ATSC 2.0 Aims To Power TV To Next Level

The soon-to-be standard will not only let broadcast viewers store and watch video on demand — in non-real time — but also call up graphics and data. And it will let marketers broadcast interactive and targeted advertising. Some of the new services will be on display at April’s NAB Show.

Imagine turning on your TV and being able to sort through the latest news clips from your favorite TV station just as you might do on your desktop or tablet. The video queue is personalized. The local high school basketball highlights are at the top and there are no business reports or other news you don’t care about cluttering it up.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee, which wrote the standards for digital broadcast TV and mobile DTV, is hoping to bring such a service to broadcasting through its work on the so-called ATSC 2.0 standard.

The standard will not only allow broadcast viewers to store and watch video on demand — in non-real time — but also call up graphics and data. And it will let marketers broadcast interactive and targeted advertising.

ATSC expects to elevate ATSC 2.0 to a “candidate” standard by the end of March and finalize the standard by year’s end. Work being done by the ATSC 2.0 implementation team is getting under way and is likely to continue through 2014.

“We’re taking a ‘blank sheet of paper’ approach,” says David Siegler, VP of technology, Cox Media Group, and chairman of the implementation team. “We have good, creative folks here that will be exploring how to deliver new services to TV using the spectrum that we have.”

The implementation team plans to demonstrate some of the services at the NAB Show in April.


Rich Chernock, chief technology officer for Triveni Digital, will be working alongside Siegler on the implementation team. “We’re going to look at the capabilities of the standard, take a few of them and lump them together and say, if we had this ability we could do really good stuff,” he says. “We plan on doing a lot of business in this area.”

Sam Matheney, VP of policy and innovation for Capitol Broadcasting, owner of CBS affiliate WRAL Raleigh, N.C., says ATSC 2.0 opens new opportunities for broadcasters. “These second screen and social interactions while watching TV [are] becoming a standard way that people watch TV.

 “I don’t think people at the general manager level know much about 2.0,” he says. “It has to get rolled out more. That’s what this implementation team is all about. It’s going to show those GMs what it can do and make them go, ‘Yeah, I want to deploy something that can do that.’”

Matheney says that the ATSC 2.0 enhancements would have come in handy during a recent storm in Raleigh. “With 2.0, we would have the ability to trigger something either on your TV or on a smartphone or tablet that gives you more information on where the storm is, which schools are closed and provide the most up-to-date content,” he says. “We are always thinking of ways that we can provide a better viewer and user experience.”

Some of those interactive, second-screen advertising opportunities are already happening via Shazam, an app that listens to what’s on TV, detects the commercial and provides additional content either on a smartphone or a tablet.

But the problem with Shazam, says Brett Jenkins, LIN Media’s chief technology officer, is that users need to pull out their phone or tablet when they see the Shazam logo on the commercial, turn on the app and hope the room is quiet enough so it can detect the commercial.

“It’s a great idea because it enables us to access more content on the second screen, but what if you could do that just on the primary screen — the TV?” he says. “Maybe you click a button on your remote and it emails you more content, or sends you a coupon to your iPhone. There are a lot of possibilities.”

The ATSC 2.0 features simply won’t work with the flip of a switch. They have to be integrated with TV set receivers and cable and satellite boxes. “These are some of the functions that the [implementation] team will resolve,” Siegler says.

ATSC 2.0 is backward compatible, meaning all of the new features should work with the current fixed and mobile broadcast systems. The features are also meant to enhance ATSC 3.0, the next-generation digital broadcast standard that is the subject of a parallel standards-setting effort by ATSC.

Among other things, the ATSC 3.0 standard is intended to give stations the capacity they need to broadcast 4K and potentially 8K ultra HD programming.

Harris is sitting out the rest of the ATSC 2.0 work so that it can focus on ATSC 3.0, says Jay Adrick, the company’s broadcast technology adviser. “3.0 is a new physical layer, so being in the transmitter business, it’s right in our wheelhouse. We have several people on our project management engineering team doing 3.0 activities.”

But Adrick and others believe that the ATSC 2.0 features are vital to ATSC 3.0 and in keeping broadcasters competitive.

“TVs aren’t getting dumber; they’re getting smarter,” Chernock says. “We can’t get left behind.”

Andrew Dodson is TVNewsCheck’s technology editor. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDodson. Story ideas or tips? He can be reached at 303-800-4581 or [email protected].

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