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ATSC approves non-real-time standard; use for news possible

(Editor's note: To learn more about NRT and the opportunities it opens for news applications, see: "This just in, sort of; non-real-time technology may enhance TV news, bring new revenue." A podcast interview with Rich Chernock, chief scientist with Triveni Digital and the person who shepherded in the new standard, is also available.)

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) this week announced approval of the ATSC NRT (Non-Real-Time) Content Delivery standard, a new component of digital television broadcasting that has the potential to open up a variety of new programming opportunities to over-the-air broadcasters, including several related to news delivery.

A backwards-compatible enhancement to digital TV broadcasting, the new standard, designated as A/103, will now allow broadcasters to deliver file-based content, including news clips, information for emergency alerts, program clips and even commercial applications such as digital signage.

The new ATSC NRT broadcast standard will support terrestrial transmission to both fixed location and mobile DTV receivers designed to make use of the new flexibility.

"Television broadcasting remains the most efficient means to move popular content to a very large audience because broadcasting is an infinitely scalable one-to-many technology," said ATSC president Mark Richer, in a media release announcing the standard. "Non-Real-Time services, or NRT for short, represent just one element of the emerging ATSC 2.0 Standard that also is likely to include new advanced coding technologies, Internet-related features, enhanced service guides, audience measurement, and conditional access capability for TV broadcasts."

According to Richer, ATSC's new NRT standard gives broadcasters the ability to deliver file-based content to consumers. NRT will let viewers watch OTA-delivered TV content at their convenience because it makes possible delivery of content before it is consumed.

Many TV programs do not require live transmissions and immediate viewing, as they could be transmitted and downloaded overnight and presented when the viewer wants to see them.

Broadcast NRT content can include both traditional TV fare (video/audio entertainment programming, news, weather, sports and other shows), information that is not now part of traditional TV fare or that is presented in a customized and nontraditional way, as well as information not aimed at the TV at all, including content targeted to PCs, handheld media players or even commercial platforms.

Possible applications include: push VOD ranging from short-form video clips to feature length movie; news, information and weather; personalized TV channels; music; and reference information on a variety of topics.

Already, NRT data has been used to deliver Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) signals to prototype mobile digital TV devices as well as digital signage via mobile DTV channels to displays on moving busses and on stationary train platforms. NRT's capabilities also have been shown in demonstrations of broadcast 3-D TV, as a supplementary method of delivering stereoscopic content.