Ongoing ATSC 3.0 Roll Outs Create Opportunities in Broadcast and 5G Convergence

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2Q 2021 | IN-6187

In this resource, learn all the appealing features of ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV), how companies are taking advantage of the opportunity, and what it will take for mass adoption.

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ATSC 3.0 Coverage Ramping Up


When ABI Research first took a deep dive on ATSC 3.0, availability was sparse, to say the least. In fact, ATSC 3.0 is still sparse across the globe, with only the United States, South Korea, and most recently, Jamaica supporting the NextGen TV technology. Brazil is in a prime position to support the technology next, according to ATSC. The first few TV stations in the United States began ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV) broadcasts in 2020 and despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ATSC 3.0 deployments continued to expand. Currently, 51% of households in the U.S. are covered by ATSC 3.0 – for a total of 68 markets. Not only does ATSC 3.0 provide consumers with the best picture (4K, HDR) and sound that television has ever seen, but it’s also great for organizations too. With ATSC 3.0, advertising can be hyper-targeted to specific regions, viewership numbers are fed to broadcasters in near real-time, and emergency alert systems are improved.

Soon, there will even be vehicles on U.S. roads that will support ATSC 3.0. South Korean auto parts manufacturer Hyundai Mobis has successfully developed and tested the deployment of vehicles featuring ATSC 3.0 receivers and plans to make the solution commercially available in 2023. The developments carried out by Mobis go to show that broadcasters and TV manufacturers aren’t the only companies that will be grabbed by ATSC 3.0’s gravitational pull.

Moves Being Made


ATSC 3.0-supported TV tuners provide bitrates of up to 57 Mbps, a significant improvement compared to 19 Mbps supported by the former standard ATSC 1.0. The largest advancement of ATSC 3.0 is the support of two-way data communication, which is not available in ATSC 1.0. Despite the enhancements, ATSC 3.0 is not backward compatible, i.e., if the consumer doesn't have a TV with an ATSC 3.0 tuner, he or shec will either need an ATSC 3.0 adapter or purcahse a new TV set or a set-top box with an ATSC 3.0 tuner to receive the NextGen TV signal. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show 2022, the ATSC announced that there are over 120 TV models and receivers that are compatible with ATSC 3.0. ABI Research expectats 4.5 million sipments of TVs with ATSC 3.0 tuners in 2022, which would be about 12% of North American shipments.

Figure 1: SK Telekom shows off in-vehicle ATSC 3.0 support. Riders can simulatenously view multiple camera angles of a live sports game or watch multiple programs at the same time. (Source: SK Telekom)

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Some of the TV manufacturers that have pledged support for ATSC 3.0 tuners include LG, Samsung, Sony, and Hisense. While Sony includes ATSC 3.0 tuners in all its new TVs, LG and Samsung reserve the tech for premium models. Hisense says that all but its least expensive ULED models will support NextGen TV. As a godsent to the industry, Sinclair Broadcast Group offers an Open Source Broadcast App that enables programmers to bridge the gap between over-the-air and Internet-delivered content. “Viewers today are agnostic on how they receive TV programs so long as the quality is equivalent between providers,” Sinclair explains. “Understanding that broadcast and broadband services can be merged to provide the best of over-the-air and Internet-delivered content is a key factor in the new delivery ecosystem. That interactive technology allows viewers to choose content regardless of how it gets to their screens.”

Although many were hoping LG C1 would have come packed with an ATSC 3.0 tuner, that did not come to fruition. If 2021 TV buyers wanted an LG TV with ATSC 3.0 tuner, they had to go with the G1 model. LG is inclined to focus its NextGen TV ambitions on the more expensive models they manufacture. Using Verance Aspect watermark technology, high-end LG TV models will provide a truly next-gen experience for viewers. This ATSC 3.0 feature will bring new interactive experiences related to cable, satellite, and antenna reception. For sports lovers, their screens will be personalized to their liking – track favorite teams, players, stats, and fantasy updates in real-time. By connecting cable networks with regional sports networks, viewers can also change who provides the commentating for a game. Some other possibilities include interactive voting and trivia questions, neighborhood-specific news and weather updates, and bonus content for TV shows (behind the scenes, actor interviews, post-show recaps, etc.).

Will ATSC 3.0 Go Mainstream?


ATSC 3.0 is demonstrating its ability to open doors to opportunities that have previously been impossible before NextGen TV. For example, Sinclair Broadcast Group and USSI Global are conducting a pilot program to offer the first commercial datacasting services using ATSC 3.0 – the program is expected to include the delivery of local content, advertising, and data to the electric vehicle charging station market. Pearl TV announced a web platform (RUN3TV) through its subsidiary (ATSC 3.0 Framework Alliance, LLC) for streaming and interactivity. Pearl also announced it is working with MediaTek to bring wider availability of ATSC 3.0 receivers to consumer devices. Early adopters such as Gray Television, The E.W., and Scripps Company will be equipped with a brand new revenue stream as they will be provided with user behavior analytics that has never been possible before. The interactive part is interesting and certainly would bring value, but interactive video remains an elusive target outside applications like influencers or live streaming like Twitch, YouTube, etc. 

What’s clear is that viewer personalization is the future of the broadcasting industry and ATSC 3.0 lays the foundation for next-gen TV experiences. The industry should be cautious of being overly confident as recent TV technologies like HDR and Dolby Vision never took off outside the enthusiast segment. For ATSC 3.0 to have any shot at going mainstream in the consumer space, third-party vendors, like the ones mentioned earlier, must find innovative ways to get the most out of the technology. As a case study, just look at how 4K, HDR, and next-gen audio adoption were heavily dependent on console gaming. ATSC 3.0 is clearly a great upgrade, but it takes partnerships and collaboration on an industry-wide scale to make it successful.

ATSC 3.0 has already seen some interest in the mobile world, as evidenced by companies like CAST.ERA converging 5G and ATSC 3.0 to bring Ultra-HD, low-latency broadcasting to mobile devices. The company has also demonstrated the delivery of targeted ads using the converged network. During the demonstration, the 5G network enables the broadcast backend to know the location of the user’s vehicle and delivers localized information, such as live traffic and restaurant information, via the ATSC 3.0 network. Content delivery to mobile devices via the ATSC 3.0 network can effectively offload the traffic from the mobile network. It also opens up monetization opportunities in data-casting. For example, sending out targeted map and traffic data and fleet-wide software updates to vehicles can also be done via the ATSC 3.0 network. Similarly, data-casting capabilities can be implemented for the use of automated device activation and automation in smart agriculture, telemedicine, and IoT application. On top of that, data-casting can be leveraged for broadcasting emergency alerts, remote learning and education programs with improved audio, and video format to various devices.

In the end, aggressive education campaigns are in order for ATSC 3.0 as it’s largely an unknown technology in the collective consciousness of consumers and even governments. Educating end users regarding the advantages of the converged solution can drive the market to take off sooner. In addition, educating government agencies about how ATSC 3.0 can assist in public safety use cases could lead to mandatory regulation to include ATSC 3.0 receivers in mobile and portable devices. Such initiatives can drive consumers’ awareness of the technology, the development of the ecosystem, and ultimately unlock the full potential of ATSC 3.0 technology. As Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro said, broadcasters “have to promote the heck out of it (ATSC 3.0)”.