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2018 A Crucial Year for ATSC 3.0

The milestone release of the ATSC 3.0 standard marks the end of a five-year effort to set the guidelines for a reimagined TV broadcast system that combines over-the-air and broadband services.

Las Vegas, NV—The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) chose opening day of CES 2018 in Las Vegas to announce that the complete 20-part suite of the ATSC 3.0 next-generation television standard has won final membership approval. The milestone release of the ATSC 3.0 standard marks the end of a five-year effort to set the guidelines for a reimagined TV broadcast system that combines over-the-air and broadband services.

The Federal Communications Commission had already voted its adoption of the ATSC 3.0 technical standards suite in a 3-2 party-line vote decided by chairman Ajit Pai during an open commission meeting on Nov. 16, 2017.

The new TV service will be far more adaptable and flexible than previous standards, commented ATSC president Mark Richer in a statement. “ATSC 3.0 will bring historic innovations to broadcasters and to viewers, from robust transmission to immersive audio, and from 4K Ultra HDTV to interactive services and more,” he said.

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The State of Sound at SMPTE, by Steve Harvey, Pro Sound News, Dec. 13, 2016

World Series Is ATSC 3.0 First, Pro Sound News, Oct. 31, 2016

The next-gen standard offers an immersive, object-based audio system delivered via new and improved audio codecs—primarily Dolby AC-4 in the U.S. The new system supports 7.1.4 loudspeaker playback, which includes overhead channels, via individual speakers, soundbars and even over headphones. The object-based audio paradigm presents opportunities for advanced personalization features such as choices of sports commentators (home team or away team announcers, for example) and alternate languages. Because the audio is rendered according to the player and, potentially, the listening environment, the system promises to compensate for noisy backgrounds or less than optimum speaker placement in a room.

ATSC 3.0 – Next Generation Broadcasting 

The approval of the suite of standards tees up 2018 as a crucial year as the ATSC helps shepherd the industry into the next phase. “The ATSC is uniquely positioned to support initial launches of 3.0 services and products beginning this year,” Richer wrote in a recent statement on the organization’s website. “In addition to our ongoing standards work, the ATSC has a very important role in educating stakeholders about how the technology works and assisting in implementation planning.

Related: Atomos in the U.K.: Live Sports Get Dolby Treatment, by Steve Harvey, Pro Sound News, Sep. 18, 2017

“Going forward, I see the ATSC as an important information center for broadcasters and manufacturers preparing to launch services and products. That means exciting opportunities for ATSC members to get engaged in field testing, field trials and plug-fests this year. Also opportunities to contribute to important new areas like conformance and compliance, privacy and security, and so on.”

ATSC 3.0 consumer devices are unlikely to be introduced in the U.S. until CES 2019 or possibly even 2020, according to industry observers. Meantime, in South Korea, three broadcasters will go live with an ATSC 3.0 service that focuses on over-the-air delivery of 4K Ultra HD video of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games from Pyeongchang in February. Consumer equipment is already available in stores.

The expectation is that U.S. broadcasters will not trail too far behind the Koreans. Indeed, with the finalization of the ATSC 3.0 standard, 2018 looks likely to be the year that broadcasters and consumer electronics companies begin forging relationships to deliver the new services.

Pearl TV, a business consortium established to help push adoption of ATSC 3.0, showed off several next-gen TV features at CES 2018. For example, Sony, in collaboration with companies including Ericsson and Triveni Digital, demonstrated a live ATSC 3.0 transmission at the Wynn hotel.

Pearl TV announced toward the end of 2017 that a group comprising E.W. Scripps Company, Fox Television Stations, Meredith Local Media Group, Nexstar Media Group, TEGNA, Telemundo Station Group, Univision Communications and Pearl TV had formed the first collaborative single-market effort to plan for and implement a transition to next-generation over-the-air television broadcasting in a “model market.” A total of 10 TV stations in Phoenix, AZ, the nation’s 12th largest TV market, with over 1.8 million households, will participate. More than one in five viewers in Phoenix reportedly rely on over-the-air TV reception.

According to the announcement, the Phoenix “model market” project has several objectives, including “confirming basic TV service parameters and performance, determining the appeal of next-generation high dynamic range (HDR) video and immersive audio content to consumers, assessing TV application features and implementation requirements, testing interactive and addressable advertising functionality, determining consumer device and service appeal, and ensuring effective and efficient interoperability with multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) systems.”

Intel’s Brian Krzanich Delivers CES 2018 Keynote

Also at CES 2018, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed during his opening keynote that Intel True VR technology will power more than 50 hours of live VR programming from Pyeongchang, supplied to NBC Olympics by partner Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), of the opening (Feb. 9) and closing (Feb. 25) ceremonies and numerous sporting events. Viewers will reportedly be able to switch vantage points with accompanying natural sound captured at each camera location.

Advanced Television Systems Committee •

Pearl TV •