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New ATSC 2.0 Will Change the Way We Watch TV

Broadcast industry takes charge with new ATSC standard for OTT services, non-real-time (NRT) content delivery, second-screen viewing, rich interactivity. Order pizza, vote for your favorite Idol.


ATSC 2.0 will enable rich interactivity with second screens so users can order pizza or vote for contestants live.

Photos & Slideshow

Robert Archer · June 2, 2014

The big buzz at the National Association of Broadcaster’s (NAB) Show 2014 was the Advanced Television System Committee’s new ATSC 2.0, which succeeds a digital TV standard that is two decades old and hasn’t kept up with streaming media, time-shifting and interactive services.

With rampant cord-cutting, broadcasters need fresh ways to grab and keep audiences, and they’re doing it with a dramatic overhaul of ATSC. Competing with today’s OTT (over the top) services that bypass traditional broadcasters, the new iteration brings interactivity like we’ve never seen it before, plus non-real-time (NRT) content delivery and a platform for second-screen viewing and interactivity.

We will be able to vote for our favorite Idol live, enjoy (or not) targeted advertising, buy tickets to a concert advertised in real time, download shows for later viewing, and (like it or not) send all of our viewing history to broadcasters so they can customize their programming and sales pitches. (See examples in the slideshow.)

Responding to New Consumer Trends
Keeping pace with the evolving world of media, the ATSC is examining updates to its platform to ensure the viability of broadcast content to include elements that consumers are finding increasingly attractive.

“Times have changed. The competitive landscape for broadcasting has changed. And while content is still king, the ways that everyday viewers interact with their favorite shows continues to evolve,” states Mark Richer, president, ATSC. “ATSC is evolving too with the standardization of ATSC 2.0 backwards-compatible enhancements to the current digital TV standard.”

Validating the ATSC’s actions are recent studies such as SNL Kagan’s latest data that indicates 2013 cable subscriptions fell by more than 250,000. Moreover, the research firm estimates if cable subscriptions continue to trend in the same manner, 2012 will result in the high point of the industry.

Meanwhile, the broadband research company Sandvine finds that for the first half of 2013 Netflix accounted for approximately one third of all Internet traffic, with YouTube accounting for just more than 17 percent of all web traffic. Interestingly, Sandvine’s research also finds that of all the data used by consumers on their home networks, 20 percent was transmitted wirelessly to smart devices like Apple’s iOS products. This figure is up 9 percent from the previous year’s numbers.

All Signs Point to a New Media Age
In addition to the increasing popularity of streaming and downloadable content, the ATSC board is also examining how UHD/4K fits into its next-generation platform.

During a May 8 panel discussion in Washington, ATSC members met for the group’s “Today, Tomorrow & Beyond” TV conference to further examine emerging standards, Internet compatibility, UHD/4K and improved signal transmission capabilities. A highlight of the conference was a keynote address from former Oregon senator Gordon Smith, who now serves as president and CEO of NAB.

In his speech Smith opened by quoting Thomas Edison, “I start where the last man left off,” and stated the famous inventor’s remarks are poignant today because of the role electronics are playing in peoples’ lives and the public’s expectations of technology.

“Today consumers expect to receive their information directly and immediately. And taking up ‘where the last man left off,’ broadcasters are innovating to deliver television signals to viewers wherever they are,” he said.

Pointing out the ATSC’s efforts to keep pace with the rapid advancements in consumer electronics and consumer trends, Smith said the broadcast industry is working diligently to validate its place in the market when other mediums fail.

He went on to say the NAB supports the ATSC’s work to develop technical standards that will be accepted by all the parties involved in the broadcast market. Smith also pointed fingers at the government for its limited understanding of what is driving the public’s media consumption.

“As the FCC remains myopically focused on broadband and delivering our spectrum to wireless companies, we must remind policymakers that in times of crisis, those wireless companies cannot match the reliability of broadcasting to deliver critical information to the masses,” he stated. “I think the irony here is that the wireless industry covets our spectrum so that they can deliver video as efficiently as broadcasting’s one-to-many architecture, but their networks can never truly achieve this no matter how much spectrum they obtain. And even worse, they want to charge viewers for this service we provide for free.”

Looking forward, Smith added there is opportunity for the broadcasters to deliver what the public wants in a number of forms over the next several years. 

“At the NAB Show, we explored many exciting innovations in television broadcasting. We saw the promise of 4K Ultra HDTV, which adds more resolution and contrast to broadcast video for sharper and brighter pictures that provide spectacular images on super-sized screens,” he told the audience. “We heard proposals for advanced television sound, which add amazing realism and power to the viewing experience, and we marveled at multi-screen services like ATSC 2.0, which demonstrated how today’s broadcast TV can be enhanced with synchronized with content via the Internet.”

What is ATSC 2.0?
Breaking down the specifics of the committee’s next-generation standard, Dr. Richard Chernock, chairman of the ATSC TG1 Technology Group, and CTO of the ATSC member company Triveni Digital. In an ATSC blog Chernock explains NRT (non-real-time) technologies are a centerpiece of the “emerging ATSC 2.0 standard.” NRT is described as a backwards-compatible package of broadcast services that includes new advanced coding technologies, Internet connectivity, enhanced service guides, audience measurement, and conditional access.

Defining the possibilities of ATSC 2.0 in more basic terms, Chernock says the platform enables users to have instant access to a variety of media at any time they wish.

“It involves the delivery of content in advance of consumption, so that when the viewer wants to view the content it’s already available,” he says. “When you stop and think about it, with the possible exception of live sports or breaking news, most television programs don’t need to be delivered in real time. They can download it overnight or at some other time, and it can be presented when the viewer wants to see it.”


  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · News · Media · Slideshow · ATSC · LG · NAB · Netflix · OTT · Sony · All Topics
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