ATSC 3.0: Amplifying the Potential of Broadcast TV

The launch of the new ATSC 3.0 standard in the U.S. represents a landmark development in the transition towards a new digital standard, carrying with it an array of opportunities for broadcasters and consumers alike. Today, there are over 118.4 million TV owners in the U.S.[1], 86% of which subscribe to a traditional pay TV service or use digital broadcast antennas, compared with only 11% of OTT-only-households[2] - confirming the ongoing demand for traditional TV regardless of competition from other digital channels. Nonetheless, with OTT providers having significantly shifted market dynamics over the last few years, the latest version of the Advanced Television Systems Committee standards will provide broadcasters with a new set of tools to compete in an increasingly busy arena. Combining antenna-based TV, also known as over the air (OTA), and in-home broadband, ATSC 3.0 delivers an experience closer to cable or satellite, with greater choice and control for viewers – hence bringing broadcast TV up to speed with the modern OTT era. By linking their linear offerings to the personalization and flexibility that comes with ATSC 3.0, cable providers who are ready to fully embrace OTT can also derive significant advantages from the shift and be a part of the living room revolution that viewers want.

As the ATSC 3.0 standard marks a turning point in the television experience, we examine the main trends and developments that will shape the future of U.S. TV, as enabled by hybrid TVs. More than offering better picture quality, including 4K and UltraHD HDR,[3] ATSC 3.0 introduces innovative advantages to broadcasters while radically improving TV content delivery, interactivity and usability for consumers. Developed by industry leaders to effectively manage the sheer amount of available content, the ATSC 3.0 specification will integrate improved user interfaces. This includes program guides that facilitate channel navigation by allowing users to scroll through available programs without having to change the channel. Other options for interaction include multi-user quizzes, for example, where users can play against other ATSC 3.0 viewers.

Globally, the advent of ATSC 3.0 will also see greater attention attributed to viewer preferences, as a means to deliver targeted content, reduce channel switching and improve channel stickiness. This can take the form of lower-screen snipes, for example, which provide additional information to TV spectators. More concretely, it can display extra details on a program, sports statistics or the release date for an upcoming series. Viewers may also be prompted to watch a second episode of their binge-worthy show only seconds after last episode’s final cliff-hanger. This technique for audience captivation is famously utilized by many OTT providers, but has been technologically out of reach to broadcast providers until now. With ATSC 3.0, next gen TV broadcasters will now also be able to take full advantage of targeted content based on viewer’s tastes in order to suggest other relevant programs and keep audiences engaged.

While social media applications are increasingly distracting viewers’ attention away from their TV screens and onto their smartphones – the growing popularity of simultaneous, multi-device consumption means that this threat is only minor. As such, even though TV is no longer able to capture our undivided attention as it did previously, it remains a dependable medium for advertising. In fact, today we are using a second screen to augment the overall TV viewing experience, not detract from it - with 71% of viewers claiming to use their device to look up something related to the TV content and 35% shopping for a product or service being advertised.[4] The new standard is built to have interaction with second devices, providing opportunity to broadcasters to engage on consumers’ devices as well as the TV.

ATSC 3.0 takes the potential of TV adverts to new heights. While at the base level, shows and movies are received over the air, ATSC 3.0 commercials can also be provided over the internet – thus allowing the targeted advertising to be carried over to Hybrid TV. Going forward, brands can target specific household demographics, as well as tailoring content to different household members according to age, gender, interests and behavior. Similarly, geo-targeting through IP delivery will allow for personalized one-on-one adverts based on location, presenting consumers with local promotions that are relevant to their residential profile. By narrowing down marketing efforts to relevant audiences, brands can henceforth ensure that their campaign costs and resources are intelligently funneled, rather than wasted on uninterested viewers.

Advertising too will become more interactive, offering immediate access to additional information and possibilities to engage with the advertisers or to redeem the deal on display. Some adverts may even create incentives for those who engage with them, such as access to locked content or specific prizes, which can be concomitantly requested via their mobile devices. Previous attempts to introduce value-exchange advertising did not prove hugely successful in the 1990s, however, the aforementioned rise of the second screen phenomenon leaves the flow of TV consumption uninterrupted, and added possibilities for personalization through data collection make these adverts more attractive to viewers. Another important lesson learned is the creation of watchlists for later ad consumption, thus allowing users to view ads for items they are interested in, but at a later time that does not interrupt their current viewing experience.

ATSC 3.0 arrives at a great time for broadcasters who will be better equipped to fend off pure OTT players. Continuously competing for screen time with other content platforms, broadcasters should take advantage of the broad spectrum of opportunities that come with adopting the fully hybrid broadcast-broadband network. With enhanced operability and interactivity, ATSC 3.0 is more in line with modern consumer behaviors, expectations and demands. Providing greater opportunities for targeted, interactive and incentivized interaction, it is clear that ATSC 3.0 is the right track to take for broadcasters.