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NAB: ATSC 3.0 Will Reinvent Free TV

Broadcasters and consumer electronics industry were quick to praise the FCC for approving the framework for a voluntary rollout of the ATSC 3.0 advanced broadcast TV standard, with NAB calling it the beginning of the medium's reinvention. But cable operators were less sanguine.

That standard will allow for 4K pictures, video on demand, advanced emergency alerts, targeted advertising, and more, but broadcasters can also combine retrans negotiations for new ATSC 3.0 and existing 1.0 signals, which cable operators had opposed.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which joined with the Consumer Technology Association, public broadcasters and others to petition the FCC for a framework for the voluntary rollout, weighed in immediately.

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“Two decades ago, the FCC blessed the transition from analog to digital television, which ushered in the broadcast-led era of HDTV that dazzled consumers and was the envy of the technology world. Today, the Commissioner endorses Next Gen TV, which marks the beginning of a reinvention of free and local broadcast television in America," said NAB President Gordon Smith. 

“Next Gen TV will provide tens of millions of viewers with ultra HDTV, live and local mobile TV on smartphones, emergency alerting that could save countless lives, and interactive advertising that will drive jobs and commerce in local communities. This is game-changing technology for broadcasting and our viewers, and we thank the visionary leadership of FCC Chairman Pai and his colleagues for their support.”

“We congratulate the Commission for its foresight and keen acknowledgement of the need for broadcast innovation," said Sinclair President Chris Ripley.

Sinclair was a pioneer in pushing for a mobile, next gen broadcast standard. It also has a handful of ATSC 3.0-related patents.

"Chairman Pai’s leadership to craft rules that are flexible and non-intrusive is to be applauded," Ripley continued.

"The Staff has done an excellent and thorough analysis in record time, and we appreciate its great efforts to think through ramifications and permit the market to flourish with minimal constraints. Now is the real test for the industry to make good on technology’s promise. We have our work cut out for us and we are up to the task.”

"Today's FCC action brings our nation a step closer to over-the-air (OTA) Next Gen TV," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro, suggesting 2018 would be dubbed the year or highest-quality TV. "By allowing broadcasters and manufacturers to take a voluntary, market-driven approach to implementing the ATSC 3.0 television transmission standard, the FCC provides the flexibility and future-proofing needed to deliver exciting enhanced television services - 4K Ultra High-Definition content, advanced emergency warnings, immersive audio and more - to fixed and mobile devices via OTA."

"The industry will help drive the transition through multi-station market testing in Phoenix, AZ; and 'living lab' field testing in Cleveland, OH - and we've already fully implemented 4K UHD broadcasting using ATSC 3.0 in Korea. The FCC's approval of Next Gen TV broadcasting sets the stage for 2018 to be the year when American consumers begin to experience the highest-quality OTA TV available."

"Today's FCC vote marks the beginning of TV stations' voluntary transition to the 'Next Generation' Broadcast Television Standard (ATSC 3.0)," said American Cable Association President Matt Polka. "Although the order includes some measures that we had proposed in order to protect viewers, we're disappointed that the FCC did not do more. Instead, the FCC chooses to rely on broadcasters' assurances that they have 'marketplace incentives' to protect viewers from service loss and picture degradation. 

"Likewise, the FCC relies on promises that cable carriage of these new signals will be truly 'voluntary.' Now we will see whether the broadcasters live up to their words. We're going to hold broadcasters accountable, and we hope Congress and the FCC will do the same and take immediate corrective measures if and when broadcasters break their promises."

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.