Since their introduction in the 1990s, ATSC standards have become an integral part of the broadcasting industry. ATSC 1.0 helped achieve high-definition video quality and next level audio clarity, but over time it has become outdated and unable to keep up with the increasing expectations of modern viewers living in a multi-device world.
Over the last year, it has been apparent that COVID-19 has slowed, but certainly not stopped, the transition from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0. While some original launch dates in 2020 were delayed, ATSC 3.0 broadcasts are already live in many key markets in the US. The rollout of NextGen TV, though long-anticipated is beginning to gain momentum, bringing the promise of 4K UHD, HDR picture quality and Dolby Atmos to live TV channels.
Now that the first half of 2021 is behind us, ATEME’s Vice President of Strategy & Market Development in North America, Dave Brass reflects on what has been achieved with ATSC 3.0 so far, and what we can expect to happen next.
Changing Landscape, Growing Expectations
Dave said, “In 2020 broadcasters shifted their focus to consolidation for the simple reason that so many were impacted by the pandemic. This meant a slow adoption of ATSC 3.0’s key features, but developments so far in 2021 are showing promise, while the pace is set by the growing expectations of younger viewers who are now accustomed to OTT platforms such as Netflix. This is laying the precedent for innovations in digital TV broadcasting as ATSC 3.0 helps to bring the viewing experience up to date.
“As the rollout accelerates, 60 implementations of the system are planned across key markets in the US. Of the main benefits presented to broadcasters, innovations such as 4K picture quality and audio advances such as Dolby Atmos have already been clearly documented.” But while these developments present clear benefits to user experiences, broadcasters also need to keep pace with internet-based advances such as 5G and make similar services available that match consumer demand or fill a gap in the market.
“With this in mind, ATSC 3.0 enables broadcasters to shift the nature of their delivery to meet the growing demand for remote learning content, which has peaked in the last 12 months due to school closures,” said Dave. “While it’s unclear how future demand for this kind of content will shape up, broadcasters will find it advantageous to continue using standards like ATSC 3.0 to adapt and stay agile in how they supply video to ensure future success.”
For example, the standards are designed to support newer approaches, including HEVC for video channels of up to 2160p 4K resolution at higher frame rates, wide colour gamut, HDR, Dolby AC-4 and MPEG-H 3D Audio, datacasting capabilities and more robust mobile television support. ATSC 3.0 uses a special type of signal that allows receivers to discover and identify transmitted signals. This signal has a fixed configuration that also allows new signal types to be used in the future.
According to Dave, the pandemic has definitely impacted the level of ATSC 3.0 adoption. “Many broadcasters faced financial challenges due to the reduction of advertising revenues in 2020, which was unprecedented in the modern marketing era,” he said. “Therefore, concerns have risen about costs and infrastructure requirements.
“A lack of compatible devices has also been an issue in the past, but as uptake grows and more viewers buy modern TVs with ATSC 3.0 tuners, the industry has reached a turning point. With the growth of the potential market, the benefits for broadcasters to use these standards will start to outweigh the challenges. One opportunity that holds promise is targeted advertising.”
ATSC 3.0 gives broadcasters the toolkit to target adverts to specific regions. A jewelry store looking to promote its products to its local area, for example, can focus purely on those that live nearby and are most likely to visit the store to complete a transaction. “As traditional forms of advertising are replaced more and more often by more targeted methods, such as personalised ads delivered via social media and OTT platforms, ATSC 3.0 will be another way for digital TV broadcasters to compete, opening up interesting opportunities for local advertising revenue streams,” said Dave.
“Targeted advertising is just one of the tools that many broadcasters have not really witnessed and understood yet, but we can expect this to change in the coming years as the opportunities for monetisation become more widespread.”
The Personalised TV Experience
Dave believes ATSC 3.0 will reshape traditional TV into a more modern, personalised and rewarding experience for the viewer. “Increased picture quality, enhanced audio support and targeted advertising will definitely come into play in the coming years,” he said. “Accelerated by the impact of the pandemic, the broadcast industry is now going through a major shift. ATSC 3.0 will undoubtedly play a key role in that transformation, particularly as video consumption continues to increase and viewers’ expectations rise for content quality and convenience.
“Embracing innovation will make a tangible difference to the broadcast market, and it won’t be long before we see pioneers using ATSC 3.0 to develop new, creative experiences for viewers at home. While challenges and barriers to adoption remain, broadcasters that are prepared to take bold steps now to take advantage of the myriad possibilities made available to these developing standards will be ahead of the trend when it comes to standing out in a competitive marketplace.” www.ateme.com