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Broadcast and Content Industries Explore ATSC 3.0 TV Opportunities

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ATSC 3.0 is certainly not your father’s TV, and it promises far more than the TV you get today.

Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) 3.0 is the latest version of the over 25-year old broadcast standard that defines how local TV is distributed over the air. The newest version, however, goes beyond reaching TV sets, enabling broadcasters to transmit infotainment services to vehicles and mobile devices.

From a video perspective, ATSC 3.0 is designed to support resolution well beyond today’s HD to include the 4K format, with 8K a future. High Dynamic Range (HDR) is also enabled as is higher-quality audio and targeted ads.

Testing

Rental car giant Avis Budget Group is exploring the use of content in vehicles with Pearl TV, which is made up of a consortium of TV groups in Phoenix. The tandem is using a setup of several TV stations to transmit ATSC 3.0 signals to cars.

The consortium is using the ecosystem to test emerging advanced TV technologies and services, ranging from over the air reception of audio and video entertainment programming to interactive applications, such as map downloads and software updates.

Also actively engaged in this space is TV station network owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which has teamed with Korean wireless operator SK Telecom. The duo is focusing on using ATSC 3.0 to deliver video and important information services over 5G links to moving vehicles.

How broadcasters can benefit

At present, cable and satellite TV providers aren’t the only ones losing money as cord-cutting continues to accelerate. Broadcasters are losing eyeballs, which means smaller audiences. That loss, in turn, means declining ad revenues for traditional TV.

Further, many OTT streaming services often lack most local TV stations, meaning that a metro market may not be able to view news, live sports, and weather via the Internet subscription offerings.

Now consider ATSC 3.0, which allows broadcast TV stations to track what consumers are viewing and serve up targeted ads accordingly. With precise location info, TV stations could sell far more targeted ads to mobile devices – for local goods and services - for which they can charge more.

Changing the channel

ATSC 3.0 and the emergence of 5G wireless portend to transform broadcasters as we have known them for decades, into companies that provide video programming, two-way data communications services, location-based ads and more to mobile devices. The key here is that broadcasters can do this without their traditional cable TV or OTT distributor middlemen.

The direct-to-consumer approach is a work in progress, but technology firms such as Imagine Communications has already begun constructing a largely cloud-based, modular platform that’s designed to focus on the ad delivery component of the broadcast business. The company has claimed it can meet broadcaster campaign marks by using less inventory, resulting in more efficient undertakings for local broadcasting.

Hitting a moving target

ATSC 3.0 can also help broadcasters reach newer audiences that include mobile devices such as smartphones as well as automobiles and trucks. This assumes that chip makers will create, and phone makers use, yet to be developed chips to enable this opportunity.

In the moving vehicle use case, also a future, ATSC 3.0 delivers UHD video, targeted ads, and more. Concurrently, the advanced TV specification, paired with super-fast 5G service, can help deliver two-way data communications.

In the interim, U.S. motorists are on the road longer, from 48 minutes daily in 2014-15 to 51 minutes in 2016-17, an increase of 6%, according to surveys from the AAA. The number of miles driven a day has risen by more than 5 percent, from 29.9 to 31.5. Infotainment services that don’t risk driver safety are already being tested.

This infotainment opportunity has already led wireless service provider SK Telecom and U.S. broadcast TV stations owner Sinclair to demo two-way media services. This was achieved by using SK’s 5G transport to deliver content from Sinclair’s ATSC 3.0 network to a vehicle’s Harman infotainment system.

The infotainment included numerous ad types sent to multiple screens in a vehicle, live traffic (using map updates), and dining information.

With an eye to a broader range of opportunities, SK Telecom and Sinclair formed a via a joint venture to eventually provide over 190 stations with ATSC 3.0., 32 of them by next year.

ATSC 3.0: the road ahead

Whether it’s cars or freight carriers, all indicators are pointing to self-driving vehicles as the eventual future of transportation, with humans initially along for the ride.

ATSC 3.0, with 5G wireless, promises to help forward-thinking enterprises embrace newer revenue-generating business models that work for many years to come.