ATSC 3.0 Offers Impressive Toolset for Content Creators

WASHINGTON—It’s hard to believe we are already well into 2016. Since my last report, ATSC has seen important industry activities relating to ATSC 3.0—including some very impressive technology demonstrations at the Consumer Electronics Show and an ATSC-sponsored half-day seminar on “Content Creation and Distribution” just prior to the HPA Tech Retreat last month.

The CES demos were a warm-up for implementation demonstrations that promise to be even more impressive at the NAB Show next month. Two major exhibit areas are planned:

ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience. Located in the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall Upper Lobby, this area will include demonstrations of ATSC 3.0 consumer services and products.

ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Pavilion. Located in the LVCC South Upper Hall, this area will be part of the NAB Futures Park. More than 15 ATSC member companies will demonstrate broadcast equipment and systems to facilitate implementation of ATSC 3.0 services.

These events will show broadcasters and other media executives what ATSC 3.0 can do. And it’s not just technologies, but also new business plans that are enabled by the advanced capabilities being built into ATSC 3.0.


The broadcast industry has, of course, been aware of and following work on ATSC 3.0 for several years now. It is expected that 2016 will mark the point at which related media industries also take note of what is possible, and what business opportunities ATSC 3.0 may facilitate. One key industry is the production/post-production and content-creation community.

ATSC 3.0 will offer content creators an impressive collection of new ways to inform and entertain audiences. Those tools include (but are certainly not limited to):

Video – Advanced, high-efficiency video coding, plus significant image enhancements such as high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut (WCG), high frame rate (HFR), and extended bit depth.

– Advanced, high-efficiency object-based audio coding, immersive audio, and services that can be personalized to user preferences.

– New tools to serve the visually impaired (video description) and hearing impaired (closed caption, closed signing, and dialog intelligibility).

Service Types
– Enhanced linear services, (including multiple, alternative components and interactive application enhancements), application-based services (e.g., OnDemand), audio-only services, and data-only services.

Hybrid Delivery
– Delivery of programs and program elements via broadcast (over-the-air) and broadband (over the Internet). Possible use cases include: 1) Main audio/video components delivered via broadcast and alternate components (such as alternate languages) delivered via broadband. 2) Main program delivered via broadcast and alternate interstitials delivered via broadband (targeted ad insertion). 3) Temporary “hand-off” from broadcast to broadband and back for brief fades in reception.

Real-Time and Non-Real-Time Delivery
– Content can be streamed in real-time (i.e., linear or streaming on-demand content) via both broadcast and broadband. Content can also be delivered in non-real-time and cached locally via both broadcast and broadband.

Security –
Security-enabled business models such as subscription services, “freemium” services (i.e., if the user registers and then the content is provided free), subscription for alternate components, and pay-per-view programs.

– The interactive application environment for ATSC 3.0 will enable interoperability between the receiver runtime environment and apps that producers and broadcasters author, based on WC3 technologies. The goal is to align with the web as much as possible.

Robust Physical Layer
– A completely new physical layer with unprecedented flexibility and reach.

The content creation community is a key part of the broadcast chain, and a group that can help move the transition to ATSC 3.0 forward through production of content specifically designed to take advantage of the new services that ATSC 3.0 can provide. For that reason, ATSC organized the “Content Creation and Distribution” seminar at HPA. ATSC has been privileged to be a part of the HPA Tech Retreat for most of the past 15 years. This time, we wanted to focus our program on a core constituency of the event—content creators.

The program began with an overview of ATSC 3.0 and then branched into key elements of the content ecosystem, including next‐generation audio and video, workflow, distribution, interactivity, and the consumer. (For a detailed report on the event see Deborah’s McAdam’s story HPA 2016: ATSC 3.0 Update).


The critical next step for ATSC 3.0 is clear: complete the standard! ATSC 3.0 is actually a suite of standards, with one or more standards per functional layer. A top level “parent” standard (A/300) will describe the overall system and state what must be included to create an ATSC 3.0 system. A/300 will point to a group of about 20 standards for all of the core building blocks that make up ATSC 3.0.

Each standard moves through the process independently. Most have already moved to the Candidate Standard (CS) phase; more will follow in the coming months. At this point, twelve CS documents have already been published. This is phase where industry feedback is solicited and implementation experience is collected. The CS documents are listed in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Updated CS documents are expected to move forward to Proposed Standard, and then finally Standard. Final approval of most documents are expected this year, with completion of all in the first or second quarter of 2017.


Work in ATSC is open to all with a direct and material interest in the work. If you are interested in participating in any of the ongoing work of the organization, please contact the author.

All ATSC Standards, Candidate Standards, and Recommended Practices can be downloaded at no charge from the ATSC Web site

Jerry Whitaker is Vice President for Standards Development at the Advanced Television Systems Committee.

Click here to access TV Technology's comprehensive coverage of ATSC 3.0.

Jerry Whitaker