Slowly but surely, broadcasters are beginning to adopt 4K TV via the ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV standard, along with an expanded number of TVs at CES.
According to Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, an industry organization representing owners of multiple TV stations, NextGen TV stations can now be tuned into in 22 markets including Detroit, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, and Nashville, 86 stations in total, covering 18% of the U.S. pop. By Labor Day, an additional 20 stations will likely go on the air in cities such as Atlanta, Washington, DC, Indianapolis, Boston, and Baltimore, then another 20 or so in Q4 2021 and early 2022 that could include one of the country’s biggest metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. By early 2022, NextGen TV could be accessed by more than three-quarters of U.S. TV watchers.
Broadcasters are excited to add IP-based NextGen TV since it enables them to create dramatically different experiences than cable or streaming by adding web-like capabilities. NextGen TV content can be personalized, tailored and customized as it is on a web site, supplemented by interactive features, and advertising can be both more finely targeted and instantly acted upon by the consumer, what one advertising executive characterized as a “frictionless buying experience.”
“We’ve spent a long time trying to get TV on digital devices,” notes Joe Fiveash, VP of Strategy and Media Solutions at IBM’s Watson Advertising and Weather Group, “but what we really want is to get digital functionality on TV. That’s exactly what the NextGen TV standard allows us to do.”
Several Detroit broadcasters also are testing integration of NextGen TV into cars at Detroit’s Motown 3.0 Auto Test Track. “Transformative advances in core TV broadcast technologies made possible by ATSC 3.0 give terrestrial broadcasters new abilities to deliver Infotainment and IP data services to an infinite number of vehicles simultaneously, as well as to the displays and devices in them – whether on-the-go or in the garage,” explains aid Brian Lawlor, President, Local Media, Scripps. “In the future, automobile makers will be able to, for example, update millions of in-car systems simultaneously at a comparatively low cost to today’s manual systems.”
On the TV side, Samsung, LG and Sony already include dual NextGen TV tuners, able to receive both ATSC 1.0 and 4K ATSC 3.0 broadcasts, in nearly two dozen models. At CES, LG will include NextGen TV tuners in its 2021 premium 55- , 65- , 77- and 88-inch models, including both 4K and 8K Ultra HD versions. LG also will add the HD HomeRun app, which interfaces with the ATSC 3.0 receiver in the HD HomeRun Connect gateway device, into its updated webOS 6.0 smart TV platform being launched in dozens of 2021 LG TVs including QNED mini-LED, Nanocell and OLED 4K and 8K models.
For consumers without a NextGen TV-enabled TV, NextGen TV is available as an add-on – cable or streaming TV STBs with integrated NextGen tuners are still likely years away – via a separate NextGen TV STB. HD HomeRun Connect 4K ($199) from SiliconDust is available now, or, coming in Q2, ZapperBox M1 ($249) from BitRouter, which plans to make its NextGen TV STB platform available to other third-party STB vendors, probably in Q3.