NextGen TV: 2022 Will Be A ‘Breakout’ Year

ATSC 3.0
(Image credit: ATSC)

 LAS VEGAS—If the natural evolution of things is to crawl, then walk and finally run, it appears the television industry is breaking out into a fast jog that’s destined for a sprint when it comes to ATSC 3.0 (aka NextGen TV) technologies in the next 12 months.

“For us, 2021 was about the fact that ATSC [3.0] was happening; there were trials everywhere,” said Chandra Kotaru, founder and CEO of Gaian Solutions speaking at the ATSC at CES 2022 press conference. “2021 was great for trials, right? It was great for traction in terms of launching stations. But ultimately you want to differentiate the offerings of NextGen TV.”

“I think 2022 will be a breakout year,” Kotaru added. “I think we will start seeing a lot more maturing of the offering.”

Kotaru was joined at the media event by Madeleine Noland, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee who hosted the pre-recorded presentation, Mark Aitken, senior vice president of technology at Sinclair Broadcast Group and president of ONE Media 3.0, and Anne Schelle, managing director of the Pearl TV consortium.

Helping to set the stage for a 2022 breakout was the aggressive deployment of NextGen TV around the country. While the pandemic slowed deployment somewhat—preventing the industry from hitting its goal of 70% coverage of the U.S. by the end of 2021—between 40% and 45% of U.S. households are now covered by a 3.0 signal, said Schelle.

“You know, we did this all in a very short order of time [with] broadcasters collaborating together to share spectrum to bring on these new services,” she said. (Editor’s note: For full coverage of Schelle and Pearl TV’s comments during the media event see: “Broadcasters Tout NextGen TV Progress At CES 2022 (opens in new tab).”)

Another sign of NextGen TV progress was higher-than-expected set sales in 2021 with over 3 million purchased as opposed to the 800,000 projected by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) a year ago, she said, adding that Hisense has now joined LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony in offering NextGen TV sets.

“… [2021] was a great year,” said Aitken. “This last year, I think we rolled out in conjunction with our joint venture partner [Nexstar Media Group] … some 22 or 23 markets…. [W]e’ve been averaging a couple 3.0 conversions a month.”  

Dubbing deployment “a community effort,” Aitken pointed out that getting a 3.0 foothold in a market doesn’t happen without the participation of multiple broadcasters.

“I think it’s really the coming together of the broadcast industry as a whole across many, many different groups… [with a] very diversified array of interests,” he said. “That by itself is exciting.”

Into The Future
For Gaian Solutions, 2021 was an opportunity to participate in 3.0 trials, such as work being done at Michigan State University, and to leverage its R&D capability to build the tools that will help consumers at home discover why NextGen TV is so appealing, said Kotaru.

At CES 2022, Gaian is launching a NextGen TV receiver stack of hardware and software. “I would really call it a money-making machine in terms of every possible facet of how NextGen TV can bring new revenues to existing broadcasters, existing content operators and existing services as well as through… services like in-vehicle music streaming, HD Radio [and] IoT.”

The edge of a 3.0 network has to be smart, and at the edge is the receiver—not necessarily a TV but also an IoT device, a set top box, what’s embedded inside a car dashboard and other devices, he said. Gaian is making one of its first public demonstrations of its new receiver stack this week at CES 2022.

The company also is demonstrating its work on enabling collaboration among broadcasters between DMAs and larger regions to foster development of a larger marketplace and ecosystem, he said.

To promote development of broadcast apps in 2022 and beyond, Gaian also is showing its new app generator tool that will make app development easy for broadcasters, said Kotaru.

With 3.0 trials done, Kotaru sees 2022 as becoming a transitional time for 3.0 when NextGen TV begins to be discussed as a platform and a nationwide network in which network capabilities for new services become “a lot more real with the outside-in approach.”

2022 will become a time when the automotive industry, various government bodies, proponents of smart cities, IoT manufacturers and others begin taking advantage of the 3.0 network. “I think one will start putting a value to the bit; one will start putting a value to the network,” he said.

At CES, Aitken expects to see a wide variety of new 3.0 offerings—not simply new sets, but home gateways that receive 1.0 and 3.0 signals and distribute them via home Wi-Fi networks.

Not only has Sinclair been working on delivering high-quality 1080p SL HDR 1 as part of its NextGen TV offering, but it has also been promoting consumer electronics, such as laptops, notebooks, iPads, cell phones and other Wi-Fi-connected devices, as “being in a position to be the center of consumption of content…that we fling out…across multiple IP platforms,” said Aitken.

Aitken predicted 2022 will see a weaving of 3.0 into the fabric of various platforms, including 5G, 3GPP-supported technology, IEEE Wi-Fi -based technologies and DVB-MC satellite-based technologies.

The Sinclair senior vice president also anticipated that 2022 will witness 3.0 becoming an important development among low-power TV. 

“We’ve always been an advocate for the low-power community. We’ve got hundreds of LP licenses that support the viewing and consumption of entertainment and information product across tens of millions of viewers,” he said. “So, the idea of broadcast as the bricks and low power as the mortar of an integrated broadcast industry…[will] be exciting to see.”

Another 3.0 focus for Sinclair in 2022 will be service introductions of sports and gambling, he added.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.