Indies Share ACA's ATSC 3.0 Capacity Concerns

Independent programmers, including some familiar names, have joined the American Cable Association to express concerns at the FCC about the impact of the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV transmission standard on MVPD capacity and say the FCC should make capacity issues part of its upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) authorizing transmissions.

In a filing with the FCC, the Outdoor channel, Herring Networks, Cinémoi and five others pointed out that ACA had said that ATSC 3.0 would force MVPDs to allocate added capacity to broadcast stations leaving less room for other networks.

Independents have already argued it is hard enough now to get carriage, with bandwidth often the reason given by MVPDs.

Broadcasters have told the FCC they do not expect MVPDs to carry their signals in both ATSC 3.0 and the current standard, and the FCC is not proposing to require MVPDs to carry ATSC 3.0 signals, at least at first.

But ACA has said broadcasters are likely to try and force that dual carriage, that ATSC 3,0 will likely require more bandwidth than the current format, and programmers are worried.

"[U]sing ACA’s assumptions, 'a cable operator would have to remove at least six HD cable channels in order to make room for higher resolution versions of the ‘Big Four,' " ACA said.

The programmers said that while the believe their content can compete with any in the market, "as programmers unaffiliated with the largest conglomerates, our offerings will be at particular risk should the transition to ATSC 3.0 compel MVPDs to eliminate cable channels."

The FCC is planning to vote Feb. 23 on the proposal to allow broadcasters to start rolling out ATSC 3.0 on a voluntary basis, so long as they continue to simulcast their primary channel in the current transmission format--ATSC 3.0 is not compatible with current sets.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.