Pearl TV Director Anne Schelle Discusses NextGen TV at the 2023 NAB Show
TV Tech caught up with Anne to assess progress on the transition and discuss what to expect at the NAB Show
Anne Schelle, Managing Director of Pearl TV, the consortium of broadcasters, manufacturers focused on ATSC 3.0 (aka "NextGen TV") has been a familiar face to broadcasters deploying the advanced terrestrial TV standard and has worked diligently to promote the standard to the industry as well as to the general public.
TV Tech recently caught up with Anne to talk about ATSC 3.0 at the 2023 NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 16-19.
TV Tech: Heading into the NAB Show, how would you assess where the transition to ATSC 3.0 is at this point?
Anne Schelle: I think we had a good quarter bringing up three big markets: Miami, Boston and San Francisco, so we're excited about that. We're on track to get to our goal of having 75% of U.S. households within reach of a 3.0 signal by the end of this year.
The other thing I've noticed is that it's been five years since the rules came out and four years since we established the Phoenix Model Market, but then we went through Covid—and sometimes we forget about that. And despite that, we've seen a lot of progress.
I was at a Hisense press gathering recently in New York where they unveiled their televisions and they talked about the importance of NextGen TV and they see it as an important way to future-proof their televisions for consumers to bring the best over-the-air service. And that’s particularly important for sports fans, it’s a driver for view over the air.
So you've got Hisense, Sony, Samsung and LG all bringing out their spring lineups now, these were announced at CES, we're working closely with them to get consumer information out there. Our holiday campaign was really successful, we ran over 30,000 spots in 17 markets, reaching potentially 30 million households, giving consumers that f broader understanding of what NextGen TV is all about. We also ran Dolby spots with our “The future of TV is here” spots and we ran a digital camoaign encouraging customers to look for the NextGen TV logo.
One of the features that we’re getting feedback from consumers is upgradability. As we add new features and get the signals available to our goal of 75% of homes by the end of this year, we' plan to to enable some of the more enhanced features to consumers as we reach scale.
At NAB we’re going to talk about HDR, for example, which is coming in the not too distant future. In addition, we’ll talk about how broadcasters are dealing with spectrum constraints as they deploy NextGen TV. For example, in Miami, because of the IP nature of the platform we can enable a capability called a broadcast IP channel, which we did with South Florida PBS—and the TV manufacturers are now virtually all supporting it.
We had to make a modification in the standard for it but the beauty of what we do on NextGen TV is that the TV manufacturers can upgrade the sets either through the internet or over the air and so that's enabling quick fixes and new services..
You're also going to see Scripps talking about their Free TV Project campaign that we have included now on our website (https://www.watchnextgentv.com/) to educate consumers. We'll also be showcasing a very cool cable integration showcasing the digital audio benefits of NextGen TV live.
TVT: Can you elaborate a little bit on this broadcast IP channel?
AS: It’s basically a allows the ability to embed a url in the broadcast that is geofenced by virtue of the fact you could only see and get it over the air. It's free, and what it does is if the TV is connected, the URL goes out and fetches the content that shows up in the EPG if it was delivered over the air. For PBS in Miami, we were limited by spectrum constraints—we’ll eventually be able to launch a second stick in Miami and at that time, they'll be able to move up as an over the air signal.
But in the meantime this gives the station the ability to begin to experiment with interactive features, so they're not left behind. And you'll see this enabled in other markets during this spectrum constrained time period.
In a lot of instances like up in Boston, we were able to add PBS from the start, but not every channel can get on,there's just not enough space. But this is a way for us to have a temporary fix as we're moving forward in the transition.
When we announced the Miami deployment in January, we said that the PBS deployment was a “test.” The ability to enable a Broadband IP channel was always there in the standard but we had to modify the language so that it would easily be enabled on a television set. LG was our first partner to enable it and Sony is now enabling it, and some of the other manufacturers are working on it.
When we developed the ATSC 3.0 standard, it was a completely new and once we put it into practice in the marketplace, we started to see these features and capabilities and ways to do things we didn't really think about but because this platform is so flexible it allows us to react to marketplace needs.
TVT: Next year, 2024 is being seen as an “inflection point” for NextGen TV. Can you elaborate?
AS: We predict 2024 is going to be a “television refresh year.” Consumers refresh their TVs every six years, so you have the analysts predicting big sales in 2024 and 2025, which is going to be great for us because we have new manufacturers coming in in that timeframe.
TVT: In regards to your comment about the logo, a colleague of mine was recently in Costco checking out the new TVs and he said none of the TVs from LG, Hisense, Sony or Samsung were sporting the NextGen TV label. Part of that might be from the fact that only certain sets support NextGen TV but all of Sony’s TVs now do. Can you elaborate?
AS: We're working closely with the TV manufacturers to rectify the lack of where the logo is being seen. The logos are on the boxes. But the issue with the displays is that retailers are only allowed to do only so many things and sometimes they're not allowed to include logos on displays—for whatever reason.
But we are hearing from retailers that buyers are starting to ask and we're working with them. I hope to be up at Best Buy and Target later in a month with one of the TV manufacturers just to educate them. I think some of the manufacturers do a better job than others, but you're going to really see an uptake towards the end of this year on fixing that.
TVT: Having NextGen TV available in the Detroit market is very important for ATSC in regards to your work with the auto companies. Do you see something similar in Silicon Valley with the San Francisco launch?
AS: Yes, totally and that's exactly why we're promoting it. We work with Silicon Valley—pretty much every TV manufacturers development group is there. If you're doing anything in datacasting, it's all there. And so we're working with some of the local TV stations on some cool stories.
And guess who else you have there? Dolby, one of my favorite companies. Consumers are leaning in on audio more than ever, and the capabilities of the voice boost and consistent loudness have been there since day one. You see Dolby really talking about immersive, but you're also seeing very cool demonstrations for the first time. At the NAB Show, we'll be showcasing the delivery of audio descriptor which is very robust.
TVT: One aspect of the rollout that’s been getting more attention recently is the role of external accessories (boxes, dongles, etc.) in consumer adoption. Can you update us on progress in this area?
AS: We call them “upgrade accessories,” and we actually published a requirements document for upgrade accessories, and all of those companies that are on the Pearl TV “Fast Track” program, so we've been working with them since the beginning of the Phoenix Model Market.
We are very much supportive of the companies that are going through the certification process. It’s really important that they are building to the standard under that certification process. We applaud Tolka for being the first company to get into the certification testing regimen. We're starting to see more of them as the price point has declined.
But also more importantly is the system on a chip—manufacturers and vendors that are starting to build to standard, making it easier for the smaller accessory device makers. There's a lot more of them than the ones that have gone public so far, so yes, we're at the beginning of the age of upgrade accessories and we're excited about them.
Get the TV Tech Newsletter
The professional video industry's #1 source for news, trends and product and tech information. Sign up below.
Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.