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Streaming Media Connect Session Focuses on ATSC 3.0

ATSC 3.0 Streaming Media Connects Panel
Session participants Sassan Pejhan of ATEME (top left), moderator Nadine Krefetz, Todd Achilles of Evoca TV, Jim DeChant of News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting (bottom left) and Madeleine Noland of the Advanced Television Systems Committee. (Image credit: Streaming Media Connects)

The ultimate success of ATSC 3.0 depends largely on its adoption by television broadcasters, consumer electronics makers, viewers and the broader tech industry, which will provide the talent, products and development needed for NextGen TV to achieve its full potential.

Streaming Media 2021 Connect offered just such a forum to advance the 3.0 message among those outside the typical broadcast sphere during the “ATSC 3.0: OTA Meets OTT” virtual session. 

Panelists, including Madeleine Noland, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee; Todd Achilles, CEO of Evoca TV; Jim DeChant, vice president Technology at News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting; and Sassan Pejhan, vice president of Emerging Technologies at ATEME, covered ground familiar to broadcasters but less so to the tech community at large. 

“One of the things that there’s a small amount of confusion on is there’s ATSC 3.0 and there’s NextGen TV,” said Nadine Krefetz, session moderator and journalist at Streaming Media. “So why, in fact… [are] there two different terminologies that are used when it comes to this environment …?”

News-Press Gazette’s DeChant explained that ATSC 3.0 refers to the transmission format and that NextGen TV better describes the consumer experience.

“ATSC 3.0 is a transition from television standards for broadcast, and if you buy a newer television set in the next year or two, you will get a TV that has a tuner chip in it that can pick up the transmission,” he said.

NextGen TV is IP-based, unlike the existing DTV standard, explained Achilles. His company, Evoca TV, takes advantage of that fact as well as the hybrid OTA-OTT nature of the standard. “So, for the first time, broadcast is similar to the internet, which … I think is profound in terms of the services that you can deliver,” he said.

PLUS: ATSC 3.0 Summit to Tackle Business of NextGen TV

ATEME’s Pejhan explained the benefits of ATSC 3.0 in terms of some of its more noteworthy features, such as support for 4K UHD, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and immersive audio, offering a variety of ways for viewers to enhance their viewing experience. For instance, NextGen TV will give viewers greater control over audio.

“Imagine that you’ve got different sound sources being sent to you as objects, and you, the end user, have the ability to mix it the way that you want it or the way that makes it special,” said Pejhan.

In that case, a viewer watching a NextGen TV sporting event could enhance the audio of the game announcer and reduce the sound of the crowd, or vice versa, he said.

The ATSC president was asked about the availability of consumer receivers. In response, Noland noted that more than 20 NextGen TV sets were announced at the 2020 International CES and subsequently introduced to the market and that since then support for the standard has grown. 

“One of the things that gets me so excited and optimistic about that [NextGen TV consumer electronics availability] is looking at the silicon vendors,” said Noland. “[Y]ou get vendors like MediaTek that are putting out chipsets for ATSC 3.0 and that kind of bodes well for the Chinese television market, which is TCL models and Hisense.”

During the hour-long session, audience members were encouraged to submit questions. Judging by the fact that there wasn’t time to get to about a dozen audience questions, it appears interest was high in ATSC 3.0 among attendees. 

One audience question related to whether or not developers will be able to create 3.0 broadcast apps. “ATSC 3.0 members wanted the ATSC 3.0 system to be as close to web technologies as possible,” said Noland. “We went with web technologies, including HTML5, JavaScript [and] CSS.”

Having 3.0 apps running locally in the browser on the TV or set-top box is “interesting territory” to be explored, added Achilles.

PLUS: An 'Inflection Point' for NextGen TV?

“I think this is one of the most exciting things about 3.0,” said Achilles. Recalling his earlier days in the wireless services market, Achilles pointed to the impact of giving mobile phones access to the internet with 3G. “[This] is exactly what we’re talking about with 3.0 broadcast TVs talking to the internet,” he said.

In the mobile world, the ability to access the internet gave rise to open operating systems, more powerful smartphones and ultimately app stores, he said. “[The] next thing you know, you’ve got a billion dollar business like Airbnb and Uber that are sitting on top of this whole stack,” he said. “I think that’s a really cool future for broadcast … to think about what’s the next Airbnb.”

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is contributing editor to TV Technology