The Cord-Cutting Abilities ATSC 3.0 Brings


Until now, the promise of ATSC 3.0 — the new digital broadcast TV standard — involved over-the-air broadcast TV’s ability to bring a better picture and improved audio quality to consumers. Addressable advertising for these stations is also a major takeaway.

But, did you know NEXTGEN TV also brings a killer opportunity, one designed to extinguish MVPDs?

That’s the very proposition being launched by Edge Networks in Boise, Idaho.

But, what is it? That’s the very question RBR+TVBR’s Weekly Tech Roundup asked Todd Achilles, President/CEO of Edge Networks, via Zoom.

Achilles is bringing to market a new platform under the name Evoca — as in “evocative.”

It promises “80+ news, sports, local, and live TV channels for less than half the cost of cable,” and uses ATSC 3.0 signals to do the job.

How is this done? Is this the next generation of what WHT did in the 1980s in suburban New York, delivering a pay-TV signal via a UHF station?

Achilles laughed at the notion, but understood why one may wonder just how Evoca plans to take on the MVPD and vMVPD.

Simply put: Evoca is a pay-TV service built upon ATSC 3.0.

Edge Networks is targeting second- and third-tier markets with the service, with Boise being the launch locale, with a summer 2020 launch date.

“Evoca will feature HD and 4K picture quality that is superior to legacy broadcast TV, cable companies and virtual streaming services, bringing true 4K television to small and mid-sized markets for less than $50 per month,” Edge Networks promises, with an asterisk. That’s because not all shows and movies are available in 4K resolution — yet.

“We’re very excited to take this next big leap in television,” Achilles said.

One plus: no buffering or internet bandwidth concerns for consumers, assuming they have a strong over-the-air ATSC 3.0 signal.

Another advantage: consumers won’t have to wait for a MVPD to upgrade its systems to deliver 4K NEXTGEN TV signals to a consumer, perhaps at a higher monthly subscription price to help absorb the cost of the infrastructure build-out.

Is Evoca like Locast? No, Achilles says. That’s because content is poised to mirror what is on an MVPD’s channel lineup, with agreements presently in the negotiation phase. Achilles expects a public announcement in seven weeks regarding content provider agreements.

“This is protected subscription-based content,” Achilles notes, suggesting that Edge Networks will be locking in cable retrans deals while using its set-top box to serve as a conduit for free-to-air signals available in the marketplace.

How did Evoca come to be? The FCC in July 2019 granted ATSC 3.0 permission to 11 TV channels across the U.S., two of which are operated by Edge Networks. The stations are located in the Boise market.

“Because of encoding efficiencies, we can put a ton of channels over the air,” he says when asked how this differs from digital multicast channels, which are part of a free-to-air offering.

Importantly, Achilles says Evoca’s service is multipath-friendly — a key for success in some markets where terrain and building penetration wreak havoc on current ATSC 1.0 signals.

In Boise, Evoca’s targets are CenturyLink, which recently decided to not pursue IPTV opportunities, and CableOne.

Leading the charge is Achilles, who has a career steeped in product, engineering, marketing and sales roles within the tech and telecom sectors.

As VP/GM for Consumer Mobility at Hewlett-Packard, he led the worldwide consumer mobility business unit as well as HP’s global connectivity initiatives. He’s also held roles at T-Mobile and HTC.

While those companies revolutionized home computing and telephone use, Achilles now hopes he has a plan to upend the cable TV provider.

Doing so will use a technology TV broadcasters have been clamoring for.