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ATSC 3.0—aka “NextGen TV”—stays irrelevant to most cord-cutters


For years now, the published TV trade has been speaking up plans to overtake over-the-air TV with a brand new commonplace referred to as ATSC 3.0.

Also called NextGen TV, ATSC 3.0 can ship 4K HDR video, enhanced dialog, on-demand viewing choices, and doubtlessly higher reception, all free of charge with an antenna. Stations in 46 U.S. markets are actually broadcasting within the new commonplace, protecting practically half the USA, with dozens extra markets to return all through 2022.

However before you purchase into the hype and store for appropriate TVs or tuner containers, take into account that NextGen TV remains to be bleeding-edge expertise, and broadcasters have but to appreciate its greatest advantages. As I wrote last year and the year before, most antenna customers can safely depart ATSC 3.0 out of their cord-cutting plans for now, even when it’s one thing to control for the long run.

NextGen TV’s 2022 updates

ATSC 3.0 is at the moment prime of thoughts because of CES, the annual tech trade commerce present the place main TV producers announce new merchandise. This yr’s huge ATSC 3.0 information is that Hisense will include ATSC 3.0 tuners in most of its upcoming ULED TVs, turning into the fourth TV maker to assist the brand new commonplace, and the primary that wasn’t an unique sponsor of the usual.

“We’re actually enthusiastic about Hisense being a brand new entrant, as a result of that’s a vote of confidence,” mentioned Anne Schelle, the managing director of Pearl TV, a broadcast trade commerce group.


Hisense is bringing ATSC 3.0 tuner assist to lots of its 2022 ULED TVs.

Nonetheless, ATSC 3.0 stays concentrated in mid- to high-end TVs. Whereas Sony has introduced NextGen TV tuners all its televisions, LG and Samsung reserve it for his or her premium OLED and Neo QLED TVs respectively. Hisense, in the meantime, is omitting ATSC 3.0 from its least-expensive U6H ULED TVs and from its lower-budget non-ULED units. Different value-oriented TV distributors, together with Vizio, TCL, Toshiba, and Insignia, haven’t introduced NextGen TV assist in any respect.

A brand new settlement between Pearl TV and chipmaker MediaTek might assist carry ATSC 3.0 to cheaper televisions by streamlining improvement, however Schelle mentioned that received’t occur till subsequent yr on the earliest.

“I feel the hockey stick atmosphere begins in 2023, and actually ramps in 2024, and we expect by 2025 it’ll be actually exhausting to purchase a TV with out NextGen on it,” she mentioned.

What about exterior ATSC 3.0 tuners?

In lieu of shopping for a brand new TV with ATSC 3.0 assist, you’ll want an exterior tuner to reap the benefits of the brand new broadcast commonplace, however these don’t come low-cost, both.

Proper now, essentially the most cheap choice is SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun Flex 4K, which prices $200 and doesn’t plug immediately into your TV. As a substitute, it streams video over Wi-Fi to the HDHomeRun app on streaming {hardware} equivalent to Roku gamers and Amazon Fireplace TV gadgets.

This week, Nuvvyo additionally introduced an ATSC 3.0 version of its Tablo Quad HDMI over-the-air DVR coming this spring; however at $300, it’s $100 pricier than the ATSC 1.0 model. In contrast to Tablo’s existing HDMI models, it’s additionally unable to stream video onto different gadgets round the home because of technical complexities, although Nuvyyo says it’d add that functionality sooner or later.


Nuvyyo plans to launch an ATSC 3.0 model of its over-the-air DVR this spring.

Nuvvyo CEO Grant Corridor mentioned he doesn’t wish to discourage cord-cutters from shopping for Tablo’s ATSC 1.0 DVRs. The corporate is launching an ATSC 3.0 mannequin largely to fulfill some early adopters and get first-hand expertise with the expertise because it emerges.

“We weren’t feeling a number of warmth that we needed to have a product out there,” Corridor mentioned. “It was extra from a thought-leadership place.”

As for cheaper {hardware}, akin to a budget converter containers that helped usher within the digital TV transition greater than a decade in the past, Pearl TV’s Anne Schelle mentioned these are additionally one other yr away. After they arrive, she expects them to price lower than $60.

“One of many points that’s plaguing us isn’t a lot the power to allow them, it’s the supply-chain points,” she mentioned. “We’re predicting these to release in 2023.”

Ready for extra options

In the event you do decide up an ATSC 3.0-compatible TV or tuner, don’t anticipate to get 4K HDR video or Dolby Atmos audio on the outset. These options depend upon assist from the published TV networks, which have solely streamed occasional occasions in 4K HDR thus far. Even with extra 4K HDR content material obtainable, broadcasters might want to make extra investments in their very own infrastructure to assist it, Schelle mentioned.

For now, early adopters will get some extra modest advantages. Choices for dialog enhancement and quantity leveling can be found with any ATSC 3.0 broadcast, and stations even have the power to modify on 1080p video assist as an improve from 1080i (interlaced) or 720p.

As for interactive elements, equivalent to on-demand information clips or dwell climate tickers, Schelle mentioned roughly 20 stations have began dabbling in these sorts of options. Nonetheless, she mentioned this will likely be a yr of experimentation as broadcasters determine what works with viewers.

“Proper now, we’re getting what we name the essential set of options on the market to begin, and over time they get upgraded,” Schelle mentioned.

ATSC 3.0 additionally has some means to enhance reception, as broadcasters can determine whether or not to extend sign energy on the expense of capability. In principle, that will enable a station to dial down video high quality so the content material can extra simply attain viewers.

However once more, that sort of profit may not avail itself instantly, as broadcasters nonetheless should preserve bandwidth for his or her present ATSC 1.0 broadcasts. (Extra on that under.)

“As ATSC 1.0 takes up much less of the general spectrum availability in a market, you’ll be able to dedicate increasingly to a 3.0 sign, which might mean you can make the sign stronger or ship extra information,” mentioned ATSC President Madeleine Noland.

No rush to improve

One essential factor to notice is that ATSC 3.0 isn’t a compulsory improve just like the analog-to-digital transition was. Even in markets with ATSC 3.0 stations, broadcasters proceed to air their channels within the present ATSC 1.0 commonplace, so you’ll be able to proceed to make use of your current TV tuner or over-the-air DVR with out situation. That’s not going to vary for a few years.

For one factor, the FCC at the moment requires stations to simulcast their most important channels in each ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 by means of February 2023, and the fee would possibly determine to stretch that deadline additional. With 15 percent of U.S. homes at the moment watching over-the-air TV with the present commonplace, broadcasters are additionally cautious of chasing viewers away with new {hardware} necessities.

“There’s nothing extra essential to the broadcaster than their viewers, they usually’re not going to do one thing that’s going to disenfranchise their viewers,” Noland mentioned.

My recommendation, then, is much like what it was a yr in the past: In the event you’re already planning to purchase a brand new TV or over-the-air TV, and an ATSC 3.0 mannequin suits inside your price range, there’s little hurt in future proofing. However don’t exit of your technique to improve to an ordinary that’s nonetheless in its infancy. Your present over-the-air TV setup will stay viable for years to return.

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