ATSC Adopts Non-Real-Time Standard

In an important step towards expanding the kind of services that broadcasters can offer, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has announced that the ATSC NRT (Non-Real-Time) Content Delivery standard has been approved.

The A/103 standard, which is a backwards-compatible enhancement to existing digital TV broadcasts, would allow broadcasters to deliver file-based content, including programs and clips, information for emergency alerts and even commercial applications such as digital signage to devices.

Non-real-time services, which might send files to devices during the night, are not strictly comparable with on-demand services that send content to a device when a viewer requests them. But once the NRT content is broadcast and then stored on the device, the information or video could be accessed on demand.

ATSC president Mark Richer noted in a statement that "ATSC's new NRT standard gives broadcasters the capability to deliver all types of file-based content to consumers. Using broadcast television, programmers will be able to send content that a viewer may watch at their convenience."

Richer also stressed that the adoption of the NRT standard is part of a larger effort to expand the types of services that broadcasters will be able to adopt with the creation of the ATSC 2.0 standard. "Non-Real-Time services, or NRT for short, represent just one element of the emerging ATSC 2.0 Standard that also is likely to include new advanced coding technologies, Internet-related features, enhanced service guides, audience measurement, and conditional access capability for TV broadcasts," he explained in a statement.

The new ATSC NRT broadcast standard will support terrestrial transmission to both fixed location, such as a TV, and to mobile DTV receivers designed to make use of the NRT capabilities.

Linear broadcasts are the major focus on the mobile DTV services being launched this year by broadcasters, but one of the groups, the Mobile500 Alliance, will be including both live TV broadcasts and NRT services at launch. That would allow, for example, a user to watch a specific program that has been cached to the mobile device while waiting at a doctor's office.

Anticipated applications for NRT services include: push VOD content; news, information and weather services; personalized TV channels; music distribution; mobile emergency alerts; alternative ways to deliver 3D TV and the delivery of mobile DTV content to moving buses and train platforms.

"Standardized transmission of NRT services allows broadcasters to continue to capitalize on a unique advantage-the wireless delivery of localized content to devices," Richer added in a statement. "The development of complete end-to-end standards to enable NRT service delivery is expected to be a critical part of the future of broadcasting."