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Trio of ATSC teams to explore future terrestrial broadcast possibilities

As television approaches its first anniversary of the completion of the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting later this month, the organization largely responsible for charting the direction of DTV in this country has formed three teams charged with exploring opportunities for TV’s long-term technical future.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee announced on May 21 that separate exploratory groups would examine the questions of terrestrial broadcast delivery of 3-D TV, next-generation television broadcasting systems and Internet-connect TV technologies.

The teams, announced at the 2010 ATSC Annual Meeting in Pentagon City, VA, are headed by industry veterans. The 3-D TV Team, designated PT-1, will be headed by Craig Todd, CTO of Dolby Laboratories; the Next-Generation Broadcast Television Team, PT-2, will be chaired by Jim Kutzner, chief engineer of PBS; and the Internet Enhanced Television Team, PT-3, will be run by Rajan Mehta, director, Digital Television Standards, Policy & Strategy, NBC Universal.

While there are no firm schedules for any of the teams to report back to the ATSC Board, which ultimately will decide whether or not to assign a standards making group to each area, preliminary findings and recommendations are likely from the 3-D and Internet-enhanced TV teams within about six months, said ATSC president Mark Richer.

According to Richer, the team looking into 3-D TV is not charged with creating a core 3-D system for broadcasting. It will be “looking to determine whether we should have a terrestrial standard to transmit 3-D terrestrially.” The team also will set out to gauge the interest of broadcasters in 3-D terrestrial transmission, he added.

The main focus of PT-3 will be an examination of what both broadcasters and receiver manufacturers are interested in when it comes to Internet-enabled TVs. “We are going to explore this area where broadcasting and Internet connectivity come together,” Richer said. The team will look at the possibilities Internet connectivity opens to broadcasters, such as customized commercials and news content. It also will examine other ways triggers in the broadcast data stream could enhance the viewing experience via the Internet.

The team looking into next-generation broadcast television systems will likely operate on a longer schedule than the other two teams, Richer said. It will engage in an analysis of cutting-edge technologies that could one day be the basis for a new DTV system, he said.

“It will be very open,” Richer said. “Jim (Kutzner, who heads the team,) is planning to take a very broad sweep and invite lots of people in to talk about ideas — from academia and around the world.”

“We know some day in the future there will be a new broadcast system, and we are starting to investigate technologies that might come,” 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.