TV Tech Summit Panel Examines ATSC 3.0 Opportunities, Challenges

(Image credit: Future)

LEAWOOD, Kan.—A wide-ranging discussion of NextGen TV possibilities available to broadcasters both in the U.S. and Jamaica was front and center during the “New Opportunities in NextGen Broadcast” virtual panel as part of the 2022 TV Tech Summit on Nov. 17.

Panelists included Stefan Hadl, senior vice president of broadcast engineering and technology at Hearst Television; Del Parks, president of technology at Sinclair Broadcast Group; Raymond Robinson, strategic account director at Crown Castle International; and John Schur, president of the Solutions Group at Telos Alliance.  

After a recap of where Sinclair and Hearst Television are along their ATSC 3.0 deployment paths, both Parks and Hadl agreed that encouraging broader and more rapid consumer adoption of NextGen TV will require the industry to begin offering 3.0-enabled service enhancements that set the next generation of television broadcasting apart from what is available with the existing DTV standard.

Both praised the recent Pearl TV announcement of a FastTrack program to make it easier for CE manufacturers to build HDMI-based 3.0 receiver dongles that can work with existing ATSC 1.0 sets equipped with an HDMI port as an important step in getting NextGen TV service in front of people.

An industrywide effort in which broadcasters actually pay some or all of the cost of such dongles should be on the table, said Parks.

Doing so not only would expose more viewers to the benefits of 3.0, but it would also make it possible to accelerate the currently indefinite sunset date for ATSC 1.0 service, making it easier and faster for broadcasters to begin exploiting all available broadcast bandwidth for new, potentially profitable service offerings, he said.

(Broadcasters were given a five-year ATSC 1.0 sunset by the FCC, but it is doubtful they will strand a large percentage of their audiences with 1.0 sets and no ability to receive 3.0 over the air.)

Whether or not the industry gets behind such an effort, Pearl’s initiative to accelerate development of receiver dongles is welcome news, said Hadl.

Telos Alliance’s Schur pointed out ATSC 3.0—particularly AC-4, the audio codec selected for use with the standard in the United States—offers broadcasters many “freebies” that he described as service enhancements that do not require additional investment in 3.0 technology beyond the cost of a basic deployment.

For example, object-based audio built into Dolby AC-4 is a pathway to new service offerings and opportunities. With object-based audio, enhancements like descriptive audio and multiple language audio tracks, are possible. Dialog enhancement, which viewers can use to pull forward dialog and push back music and effects is another freebie broadcasters can leverage to serve something new to their audiences, he said.

Crown Castle International’s Robinson brought everyone up to date on the deployment of ATSC 3.0 in Jamaica. There, the standard offers broadcasters several opportunities to serve viewers better. In particular, remote education and emergency alerting are two opportunities broadcasters will use in Jamaica to meet the needs of islanders.

There are challenges, however. Unlike the U.S., Jamaica is jumping directly from analog to 3.0; another difference is the socio-economic status of most Jamaicans, who are not likely to spend a large percentage of their annual income on a new NextGen TV set. That in turn makes some sort of analog-to-3.0 set top box all the more important to ultimate success. Whether or not CE makers will respond with an STB solution, is an unknown.

To view this session and others from the Nov. 17, 2022 TV Tech Summit on demand, register for the event here.

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.