ATSC 3.0 is the next big thing coming from broadcasters, and they’re in heavy sales mode now

For starters, the whole ATSC 3.0 thing isn’t new-new -- it’s been on a Google Alert list here for a few years now, and was, in fact, a candidate for a standalone “CTAM Top 10” two years ago. 

Acronym descrambler: “ATSC” stands for the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which is the Big Daddy of standards-setting organizations for digital video. It dates back to when what we now know as “HDTV” first started to happen (which was nearly 25 years ago. Can you believe that?), and has 

“family” ties to the Advanced Television Committee, which set the original analog video standards, 75 or so years ago.

ATSC 3.0 is and wants to be lots of things, (see box) but in a nutshell, it’s about making broadcast-side stuff “connected,” and more Internet-like. Its public-facing name is “NextGen TV” (go ahead -- indulge yourself in the massive déjà vu of that) and was described by NAB President Gordon Smith, during his keynote, as “the seamless convergence of broadcast and broadband; over-the-air and over-the-top.”​
Stated Benefits of ATSC 3.0 for Consumers:
1. Personalization (undefined)
2. Interactivity (undefined)
3. 4K video
4. Immersive Audio
5. Hyper-localized programming
6. Device-activating Emergency Alerts​​​​

The spec itself is comprised of more than a dozen “smaller” specs -- “smaller” in quotes because the smallest of them, “Audio Watermark Emission,” is 10 pages, and the largest, “Physical Layer Protocol,” is 262 pages. 

All together, and not including seven additional candidate standards (and a handful of best practices), the ATSC 3.0 spec weighs in at well over 500 pages. Categories run the gamut, from “System Discovery and Signaling” and “Companion Devices,” to “Content Recovery in Redistribution Scenarios” and “Captions and Subtitles.” 

In February, the FCC put ATSC 3.0 on the map in a pretty big way by voting unanimously to let broadcasters voluntarily move to 3.0 -- and in particular, the “System Discovery and Signaling” and “Physical Layer Protocol” parts of the spec. At NAB, ATSC 3.0 was all over the place. There was an ATSC 3.0 pavilion with a ribbon cutting. (see photo with CTAM Celeb). There were tech sessions and presentations and vendor demos galore. 

But probably the biggest indictor of ATSC 3.0 momentum was the Korea Pavilion, in the “Futures Park” area -- because that’s the first place in the world that will broadcast in ATSC 3.0. Why? Because they want it to shine in time for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Among the nifty tricks in the ATSC 3.0 standard: The ability to awaken your TV, tablet, smartphone, or other companion device, to tell you danger is on the way. 

For MVPDs deciding whether to accommodate
ATSC 3.0-based signaling and content is not unlike any other decision prompted by a content provider, and involving a technological shift. Which mean the onus is on broadcasters to sell this into old and new distribution paths. 

Notably, Steve Calzone, until recently with Cox, and a respected tech exec in advanced video circles, now chairs an ATSC 3.0 Specialist Group [“TG3/S37”] called “Conversion and Redistribution of ATSC 3.0.” This means he’s the guy to help build the tech bridges that need to be built, between broadcast ATSC 3.0 and MVPDs of all stripes.

Yes, that’s Glenn Reitmeier, esteemed CTAM Tech Advisory Board member, as well as being the ATSC 3.0 Board Chairman, and SVP/ Advanced Technology Standards & Policy for NBC Universal.