New ATSC 3.0 digital TV broadcasting standard (aka NEXTGEN TV), which has been made available in more and more US cities, continues its steady growth path, with stations in more than 50 markets and reaching 55 percent of households upgraded from ATSC 1.0.
ATSC 3.0 tuners can be found in select kits sold in the US from 2020, and some of them the best 4K TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony and Hisense that provide this feature. The benefits of ATSC 3.0 over the older HD digital TV standard include 4K high dynamic range video, immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS: X audio, and Dolby dialogue enhancement and volume leveling features. In addition, as it is based on the IP protocol, bi-directional data streaming is supported to provide an interactive component to TV shows and sports.
Since it’s TV with advertising, these new features will be available for free – just plug in one of the the best indoor tv antennas for ATSC 3.0 compliant kit.
But what if your current TV doesn’t have a built-in ATSC 3.0 tuner? Stations that are transitioning to the new broadcast standard must “simulcast” in ATSC 1.0 for at least five years after the switch. In addition, companies such as Tablo offer DVR set-top boxes with ATSC 3.0 tuners that allow you to receive and record TV programs and connect to the TV’s HDMI input. But at around $ 150, the Tablo recorder is expensive, and not everyone wants to record TiVo TV shows.
This is where Pearl TV comes in. The Broadcasting Coalition, which counts more than 820 stations among its members, has just announced the FastTrack program aimed at “accelerating the development and retail sale of low-cost receivers with retrofit accessories.”
The FastTrack initiative was announced last week at the NAB Show New York trade conference hosted by the National Association of Broadcasters. Noting that the ATSC 3.0 standard is not backward compatible and that 91 percent of American households now have a TV with an HDMI input but no ATSC 3.0 tuner, the Pearl TV release clearly states the group’s intention “to provide support to manufacturers interested in producing devices that supports the full feature set of NEXTGEN TV services. “
The devices the group probably has in mind are entry-level set-top or stick external tuners that plug into an antenna and can be sold at an affordable price. Such a device would give ATSC 3.0 the opportunity to develop over the next few years as TV sets with built-in next-generation tuners will become more widely available. (The Pearl TV release also states that “by 2024, more than 75% of all TVs sold are projected to be available with both HDTV and NEXTGEN dual reception.”
Analysis: Free TV gets a much-needed update with ATSC 3.0
As most streaming services now offer 4K / HDR shows and movies, regular TV shows are starting to look a long time. Yes, when high definition digital TV first came out in the late 1990s, it was an exciting and very welcome improvement over analog broadcasting with its low definition and reception challenges. But more than 20 years have passed, and during this time there has been a wide range of technical advances in television technology.
The main ones are 4K and HDR, which greatly increase the level of detail, color gamut and visual dynamic range of video images. Both have been readily available to viewers since 2016 and are now seen as commonplace.
Immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos are also available on streaming services and the owners the best soundbars expect to experience soundtracks in a new, object-based format when watching movies and shows on TVs.
Regarding the interactive component of ATSC 3.0, the benefits still cannot be explored, but services like Amazon Prime have started to provide interactive features with Fourth Night Football Streams that show extended stats and other additional fan service content. Sports are a huge attraction for TV, so as more and more streamers are rolling out interactive features – and they will certainly do – broadcasters will start popping up far from the pace.
Of course, all these shortcomings in television can be fixed by making ATSC 3.0 widely available, and also cheaply implemented in sets without a new generation TV tuner. Pearl TV’s FastTrack program is a welcome step in this direction that could greatly accelerate the success of the new standard.