NAB to FCC: ATSC 3.0 Future Is Now

The National Association of Broadcasters has told the FCC that it is time to start treating broadcasters, MVPDs and over-the-top video providers as competitors for the same eyeballs, and to let broadcasters innovate their own new offerings through next-gen TV transmissions.

That came in its comments on the FCC's review of the video marketplace for an upcoming report to Congress.

"No one today should retain any doubts that TV broadcasters, MVPDs and OVDs offer competing alternatives to consumers," NAB said.

Broadcasters argue that the decline in MVPD subs can be attributed to a "growing consumer reliance on OTA broadcast TV and increasing use of OTT services."

NAB points out that the growth in distribution outlets has led to an explosion of new content. "with a record 455 scripted original series available to viewers in 2016, an increase of eight percent over 2015, a remarkable 71 percent increase since 2011 and a stunning 137 percent increase from a decade ago," it said.

"Broadcasters, basic and premium cable services and streaming platforms have all increased their original scripted offerings."

Given the rise of net competition and the need to remain on the cutting edge of technology, NAB says the FCC needs to approve the deployment of ATSC 3.0 next gen TV transmissions, which it says can make the marketplace even more competitive.

Given that Netflix and Amazon and DirecTV offer some 4K programming, NAB says broadcasters need to be playing on that same field, which ATSC 3.09 will allow. "Preventing broadcasters from providing 4K programming to the rapidly growing number of consumers who have or will soon purchase 4K-capable sets does not serve the public interest," it told the FCC.

ATSC 3.0 will also allow broadcasters to get a piece of the online action since the standard integrates "seamlessly" with IP, NAB says, and will allow broadcasters to offer their own interactive services, like VOD, to viewers with broadband connections.

"Swift approval of the voluntary deployment of the Next Gen standard, without unduly burdensome regulatory requirements, will help ensure that broadcasters can continue to offer a competitive alternative in the digital marketplace," NAB said. 

FCC under chairman Ajit Pai has proposed allowing the voluntary rollout of ATSC 3.0.

The FCC unanimously voted Feb. 23—though Democrat Mignon Clyburn still had some reservations—to propose the rollout, so long as broadcasters continue to broadcast their content in the ATSC standard as well, as ATSC 3.0 is not compatible with current sets. But the proposal also asked a lot of questions about exactly how the commission should authorize the launch of the new standard.

The chairman said he was hoping to have a final order by the end of the year--which is obviously fast approaching--"so that American broadcasters can deliver to our nation's citizens even more of the marvels of the digital age."

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.