ATSC 3.0: It’s Here Next Year

As the suite of standards is approved for ATSC 3.0, the next-generation over-theair transmission system, broadcasters and hardware companies are now weighing the prospects of investing in what’s going to be needed to make the specification work.

Enter Accenture Strategy, a global professional-services firm that advises companies on the services and solutions needed for their digital, technology and operations. Managing director Mike Chapman is Accenture’s global lead of media and entertainment and video strategy consulting, and has worked with a broad range of media and entertainment companies along with traditional and OTT video distributors, and is now helping companies decide how to approach ATSC 3.0.

Chapman spoke with Next TV contributor Chris Tribbey about ATSC 3.0’s potential to provide new monetization opportunities, his predictions on how quickly broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and service providers will adopt the standard and which features of ATSC 3.0 will most benefit consumers.

NTV:Where do we stand with the suite of standards behind ATSC 3.0? Are we on track, and is there anything we need to be concerned about?

Mike Chapman: Basically everything I’m seeing is that the technology and standards process is on track for 2017, and that the ATSC committees have been on top of the progress of getting this closed out and getting a final set of standards by 2017.

I’ve spoken with a few people that spoke about the South Korea launch, and they feel good about that. South Korea, unlike the U.S., is basically mandating across broadcasters that they adopt the standard, whereas in the U.S. it’s voluntary. There’s a different approach being taken, but in South Korea, the technology was a launch platform around the [2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics], and they’ve seen a lot of potential with it. The Olympics broadcast will be the first where everyone is on the standard, and a lot of the capabilities, features and functionality of ATSC 3.0 will be utilized.

We’re going to start talking about what’s happening in the broader TV and video ecosystem and how ATSC 3.0 allows broadcasters to stack up against the changes in the industry.

NTV:We saw a local Fox affiliate in Cleveland simulcast a World Series game using ATSC 3.0. Is there any surprise at the pace at which we’re seeing the standard implemented?

MC: There’s nothing surprising with the tests, and we’ve seen a number of trials in select markets. I think what was interesting about the World Series test is basically they were able to do it as a simulcast, and given that the World Series was one of the most-watched live events in the country, to be able to test that next-generation capability on a sporting event of this size, it shows the confidence of the broadcast community in the standard itself. I imagine we’ll see more tests around large-scale events with ASTC 3.0, and I think some of those tests will see previews of the new features ATSC 3.0 offers.

NTV:Are we on track for equipping broadcasters with what they need in terms of hardware for when ATSC 3.0 goes live?

MC: I see the hardware needs as being addressed from a couple of different corners. From a TV perspective, the good news is because South Korea is going to launch with the standard, you already have manufacturers like Samsung and LG who are already developing sets and chips for that marketplace. So the U.S. won’t be the first to roll out technology and can leverage what we learn from the launch in South Korea. What’s going to be interesting for the U.S. is it’s a much larger market, we have more broadcast TV groups, and our rollout deployment process will be different, since it’s not mandatory.

What the U.S. market will have to deal with is making sure there’s enough hardware coverage in the marketplace, and the providers can meet market demand. More importantly, they need to make sure the consumer has access to that ATSC 3.0 signal, and don’t have viewers going dark. That will be key when we start doing the 3.0 cutovers, so that the viewers have a continuing signal, and that will mean simulcasting or other creative methods like transition devices, to make sure the consumers already have access to the TV signal in their marketplace.

NTV:Do we anticipate any issues with the FCC, or is this pretty much a done deal even before they have anything to say about it? Are there any pitfalls we need to avoid?

MC: I would say the FCC is handling its normal process of review and commentary on ATSC 3.0. I’ve been to events in the D.C. area, and what I’ve seen is excitement, not only from the broadcast community but also the congressional members who’ve been involved with the FCC process and the broadcast community overall. I feel that there’s an excitement and a need from the broadcast community to basically continue their public service to the U.S. viewer and using next-generation broadcasting to provide an enhanced viewer experience. I don’t see anything to suggest that there will be any hurdles from an FCC perspective, but at the same time, I don’t want to say it’s a done deal.

NTV:Everyone is pretty familiar with the picture benefits — 4K, HDR — for ATSC 3.0, interactive advertising, better emergency services. What would you say is the most impressive of the new features coming up, and what would you say are some of the more underappreciated or under-the-radar services that will be available?

MC: I think there are a few. In terms of the most appreciated, it’s probably advanced advertising. I think that and some of the data collection capabilities 3.0 brings to the table are going to be valuable. If you can make the advertising experience less intrusive, more targeted to consumers, they get more benefits with relevant ads, and the advertisers and the broadcasters are able to capture more revenue and generate more opportunities for monetization.

I also see some user experience opportunities coming out of it. If you think about the standard, there are some things you can do with it for video on demand. That begins to put broadcasters on parity with other pay TV providers and other video providers, being able to offer not just live, linear TV, but on-demand TV. That’s a huge feature that 3.0 brings to the table.

In terms of underappreciated opportunities, what’s going to be interesting is datacasting, where broadcasters have to do a little more thinking around how they execute it and how they monetize it. Datacasting could be very interesting, being able to actually drive data down into different devices, and also from a consumer perspective, may help with data plan savings. That’s a huge opportunity. Depending on how broadcasters actually deploy and execute some of these features, I think there’s huge potential in how TV is viewed and experienced by consumers.

NTV:And just how important is 3.0 going to be overall in keeping traditional pay TV companies competitive?

MC: I think broadcasters are at a point in the video ecosystem where they really get to define their future. With all the changes happening in the video ecosystem more broadly, they need to really take advantage of next-generation technologies and really cement their place in the ecosystem. I’m encouraging broadcasters how to use 3.0 to get there.