Next Gen TV: It’s A Matter Of Numbers

I’ve had a few “aha” moments over the past couple of months when it comes to ATSC 3.0 that have given me some much-needed peace of mind. While I do believe the ATSC 3.0 standard offers TV broadcasters a legitimate path forward to compete with the burgeoning world of digital media alternatives, I must confess I have had a nagging feeling for some time about consumer uptake of Next Gen TV.

It’s not that I don’t believe consumers will buy 3.0 sets when they become available. I do. But my concern has been that the purchases won’t happen quickly enough to propel Next Gen TV down the runway at the velocity needed for a smooth take off. Equally concerning has been how fast broadcasters will put their 3.0 plants together and whether they will cooperate and cohost to put Next Gen TV on air.

Then in May, Anne Schelle, managing director of the Pearl TV consortium told her audience at the annual ATSC meeting in Washington, D.C., that—give or take a little sliding—that by Q3 2019 ATSC 3.0 will reach a third of U.S. households. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who raised an eyebrow to that.

But then I spoke on the phone separately with Schelle and Dave Folsom, retired CTO of Raycom Media who is consulting on the Phoenix 3.0 model market project, and the projection seemed a little more achievable. Markets like Raleigh, Dallas and Phoenix are on air, and, according to Folsom, Pearl TV anticipates expanding the model market template to other cities around the country sooner than later.

Still, I wondered, will Next Gen TVs make it into the homes of Americans quickly enough to make 3.0 a viable platform for broadcasters—not as a technology, but as a business.

Then on June 27 at a joint meeting of six Midwest state broadcast associations, Dave Arland, executive director of the Indiana Broadcasters Association, assuaged my fears when he told the 120 broadcasters gathered for the event that 46,000 Ultra HD sets are sold in the United States each day. That’s one every two seconds!

With dual 1.0 and 3.0 tuner sets expected when Next Gen TVs come to market in the 2019–2020 timeframe, it’s not hard to see that takeoff velocity is achievable. Based on Arland’s figures, nearly 17 million 3.0-enabled sets will be sold in their first year of existence. Within seven years, that will be one for every U.S. TV household.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account households that buy two or three sets in a year and others that won’t buy for a decade or more. But the bottom line is on average the receivers will be there in far less time than the analog-to-DTV transition took.

For a comprehensive list of TV Technology’s ATSC 3.0 coverage, see ourATSC3 silo.

Phil Kurz

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.