LAS VEGAS — A broad coalition of broadcast television station groups that include network O&Os, affiliate stations and educational broadcasters plan to deploy the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast TV standard across the nation’s 40 biggest markets by the end of 2020.
In a show of unity for the new broadcast TV standard, Fox Television Stations; NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations; Univision; SpectrumCo (whose members include Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar Media Group); and members of the Pearl TV business organization (including Cox Media Group, The E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media Group, Gray Television, Hearst Television, Meredith Local Media Group, Nexstar Media Group and TEGNA) were joined by America’s Public Television Stations, Capitol Broadcasting, Hubbard Broadcasting, News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting, and public broadcasters participating in the Phoenix Model Market Next-Gen TV test in committing to the large-scale roll-out of ATSC 3.0 technology.
It’s a market-driven effort — something the groups noted in particular, as the FCC under Republican leadership has made it clear it does not want a forced transition from current ATSC 1.0 digital technology.
ATSC 3.0 is not backwards compatible. As such, new TV sets must be purchased in order to enjoy signals that will eventually be delivered to a smartphone. At the same time, broadcast TV companies and MVPDs can work on schedules that best fit with their capital expenditure structures in bringing ATSC 3.0 to the cities in which they operate.
The rollout builds on the testing and debut of ATSC 3.0 signals that have already taken place in not only Phoenix but also in Dallas; Baltimore; Raleigh; East Lansing, Mich.; and Santa Barbara, Calif.
A first wave of over-the-air Next-Gen TV service will begin with several markets slated for launch this year, with dozens more planned through 2020. “This timeline will make Next-Gen TV service available to tens of millions of viewers and is concurrent with the anticipated 2020 introduction of consumer devices equipped to receive the advanced signals,” Pearl TV announced from the 2019 NAB Show on Monday morning.
WHERE NEXT-GEN TV BEGINS
Subject to final engineering and required approvals, consents and FCC license modifications, the participating broadcasters have identified the first stations that will convert to ATSC 3.0 service in this rollout.
Primary broadcast programming currently broadcast on the stations planning to upgrade will be hosted by other stations in their respective markets.
Top 40 Markets where the first transitioning stations have been identified (ranked by population) include:
- Dallas-Ft. Worth
- San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
- Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne
- Portland, Ore.
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- Kansas City
- Columbus, Ohio
- West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce
- Las Vegas
It is interesting to note that Miami-Fort Lauderdale is absent from the list. This is home to WSVN-7, a station presently affiliated with FOX owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television, and WPLG-10, the ABC affiliate owned by BH Media, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary.
Miami is also home to CBS O&O WFOR-4, and the absence of CBS from the coalition is notable, their participation and that of Sunbeam and BH Media, is anticipated soon.
The group confirms that work is “now underway” to identify Next-Gen TV stations in the market, in addition to the top markets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver and Washington, D.C.
Also on this list: Cleveland-Akron, Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, St. Louis, Charlotte, Indianapolis, San Diego, Hartford-New Haven, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and the combined DMA of Asheville/Greenville-Spartanburg.
Furthermore, additional TV markets where stations have been identified for Next-Gen TV service include Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News; Oklahoma City; Albuquerque – Santa Fe; Grand Rapids – Kalamazoo; Memphis; Buffalo; Providence – New Bedford; Little Rock – Pine Bluff; Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla.; Albany-Schenectady-Troy; Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich.; Omaha; Charleston-Huntington, W. Va.; Springfield, Mo.; Rochester, N.Y.; Syracuse; Chattanooga; Charleston, S.C.; Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y.; and Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo, Callif.
Among the more compelling features of ATSC 3.0, noted NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith, are the life-saving alerting functions that will give the nation’s first responders the ability to use “the broad reach of local television to keep viewers informed during emergencies. Our members’ news departments will come to rely on the advanced capabilities of Next-Gen TV as a resource to forge even stronger connections with the citizens we serve every day.”
John Hane, President of SpectrumCo, commented, “Broadcasters large and small, commercial and public, from coast to coast have invested countless hours of analysis, planning and coordination to develop the rollout plans announced today. The industry is enthusiastic about the game-changing opportunities to improve the broadcast experience for consumers, better serve advertisers and subscribers, and diversify into new businesses and new sources of revenue.”
The Las Vegas announcement comes on the heels of word that the U.S. government has proposed to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) adoption of the ATSC 3.0 digital broadcast standard for use by all countries in the world.
The proposal is the first major step in the evaluation process for worldwide acceptance of the standard.
The U.S. effort was actively supported by the South Korean government delegation with significant assistance from the Korean Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute.
Key to the push is the use by South Korea and the U.S. of an IP-based standard, with a higher throughput capacity.