The iTV Doctor Is In!: FCC Approves ATSC 3.0, and We're Talkin' about It at TVOT NYC


Dear Readers:  

I have the unique privilege to moderate a panel on ATSC 3.0 at the upcoming TVOT NYC conference on December 7th. This is very timely inasmuch as the FCC just voted to allow the voluntary deployment of the ATSC 3.0 standard.
(Doctor's Note: prior to that panel, if you happen to be watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, look for Harold the Baseball Player--a unique black & white throwback to the original 1947 movie, "Miracle on 34th Street." My wife Jane and I are captains on that balloon, and there are only a few hundred people in the world who do what we do. NBC expects over 50 million viewers in the US alone, plus 3.5 million smiling faces along the parade route.)
OK--back to the topic at hand. While the technology behind the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard is substantially above my pay grade, the consumer products and business relationships are, in fact, just TV.  
In the same way that OTT distribution, once touted as the "end of Pay-TV," has developed into just another distribution mechanism (as we forecasted a few years ago), ATSC 3.0 is simply another substantial step in the evolution of our business.
ATSC 3.0 is fascinating because it may draw previously overlooked players into the pay-TV space: local broadcasters. And those folks, when taken together, pass exactly 100% of all TV households. If memory serves, it was initially local broadcasters who defined the "reach" of TV households.
With close to 120 million TV homes in the US, broadcast television reaches them all. In terms of television distribution, that beats cable, satellite, broadband or wireless.
At TVOT NYC, I am moderating two back-to-back ATSC 3.0 sessions, one on content and one on platform and partnerships. Here are the details:
Silas Theatre
ATSC 3.0 Super-Session
ATSC 3.0 looms large in the future of television, with the capability of delivering multichannel broadcast pay-TV and other services to virtually every home-based and mobile device without cables, satellites or wires of any kind. It's a massive undertaking that many of us are struggling to pin down. TVOT NYC 2017 will endeavor to further your understanding with this two-part Super-Session: Part 1 will focus on the consumer products and content that ATSC 3.0 will deliver; Part 2 will focus on how the ATSC 3.0 platforms and partnerships will be configured to make it all work. Panelists include:
Here is a preview of what we will discuss at each session:
Part 1: ATSC 3.0 Product and Content (the consumer side). How will ATSC 3.0 differentiate itself from other broadband services? Does it need to? On the assumption that the INITIAL ATSC 3.0 targets are consumers who are NOT big-bundle pay-TV subscribers, what kind of launch strategy does ATSC 3.0 use to get the numbers that impatient investors expect these days? The cable industry built itself on the back of HBO--people literally subscribed to cable TV to be able to get HBO. What's today's HBO? Is it HBO? Possibly a multichannel streaming Netflix? 
Part 2: ATSC 3.0 Platform and Partnerships (the business side). Hybrid delivery platforms exist today. Verizon has been using Comcast for backhaul for years, and we expect that to continue when Verizon moves to 5G. Consumer adoption of 4K television, AR and VR will simply blow up most providers' networks, and ATSC 3.0 has a tremendous opportunity to contribute local-market bandwidth. Who is going to assemble that? Can we make hybrid delivery seamless (and invisible) to the consumer?
Some of our panelists have shared brief observations on ATSC 3.0:
Rich Chernock, Triveni Digital: In order to survive and grow, broadcast television needs to change direction. With today's competition for viewers' eyeballs, providing simple linear television is no longer sufficient. ATSC 3.0 provides a toolkit that gives the broadcaster many choices for new services--mobility, deep indoor reception, high-quality audio and video, interactivity, ad insertion and personalization. Deciding what types of new services to offer is a problem, as these represent significant differences from today's operations. The potential upside from adopting ATSC 3.0 is enormous--the difficulty will come in choosing what services to offer.
Bruno Le Breton, Thomson-Broadcast: ATSC 3.0 is a key step in the convergence between the telecommunications industry and broadcasters. This will affect devices and content alike and raise the real questions of who will be tomorrow's primary players and newcomers.
Chet Dagit, Lokita Solutions: The FCC in DC just approved nationwide Next-Gen TV! Our broadcast solution is being deployed around the world and gives consumers more HD channels, with premium UHD and HDR subscription services. In Korea, at the Olympics, you can see the upgrade provides much greater coverage to mobile screens and TV's, for FREE, without satellites or cable wires. Over-the- air broadcast will stay free because of advanced advertising and personalized geo-located content. Opponents have sought to put the kibosh on innovation in the US. However…broadcast modernization prevailed, and will compete head-to- head with 5G.
Eric Anderson, Verance: Today's television viewers are not just viewing television. They're engaging with content across multiple devices, platforms and distribution paths whenever, however and wherever they want. Keeping up with the growing demands and expectations of today's television viewers is a challenging task--much less delivering on advertisers demands. The benefits of ATSC 3.0, combined with enabling technologies like the Aspect watermark, make it possible for broadcasters to satisfy these interests. I'm excited to discuss how these technologies provide businesses and broadcasters with myriad new opportunities--cross-platform, census-level audience data at scale, personalized content, interactive experiences and addressable advertising are just the beginning.
Madeleine Noland, LG: ATSC 3.0 is the world's first IP-based broadcast system. This enables never-before-envisioned hybrid broadcast-broadband services. In addition to the potential for pay services, the system enables new levels of interactivity and accessibility, not to mention AWARN advanced emergency alerting, and it has been designed from the ground up to enhance traditional free over-the-air television service with significantly higher video and audio quality. The FCC's adoption of the core elements of ATSC 3.0 sets the stage for some exciting early implementation projects in 2018 in preparation for widespread nationwide deployment in the years ahead. 
John Lawson, AWARN Alliance: In a fortunate synergy, a new public service enabled by Next-Gen TV--the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN)--is helping pioneer some of the same innovations that will give broadcasters a new competitive advantage in the media marketplace. Using ATSC 3.0, AWARN will deliver geo-targeted, rich-media emergency messages to a wide range of enabled consumer devices, including 4K /UHD television sets, home gateways, tablets, smart phones, and connected cars. In our technical development work, we hope to both learn from commercial model development and contribute to it. Most importantly, AWARN will provide a major upgrade to America’s emergency alerting capability.