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'NextGenTV' girds for scale as awareness of the new broadcast standard rises

With awareness rising for "NextGenTV," the consumer brand for the ASTC 3.0 broadcast TV signaling standard, US broadcasters and their tech partners are pushing ahead with plans to scale up market deployments and extend support of the standard to a broader range of television sets.

According to WatchNextGenTV.com, a hub that tracks ASTC 3.0 deployments and provides info about the features and capabilities of the new standard, NextGenTV is now in at least 43 cities, covering about 45% of US households. That's opening up access to a new, IP-based platform that supports 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, on-demand video, enhanced audio, interactive apps, "t-commerce" (the ability to make purchases via the TV) and new emergency alerting capabilities.

NextGenTV is the consumer brand for the ATSC 3.0 broadcast signaling standard, which supports advanced capabilities such as 4K/HDR video, enhanced audio and interactivity.  
(Source: Advanced Television Systems Committee)
NextGenTV is the consumer brand for the ATSC 3.0 broadcast signaling standard, which supports advanced capabilities such as 4K/HDR video, enhanced audio and interactivity.
(Source: Advanced Television Systems Committee)

It's expected that ASTC 3.0 will cover more than 80% of all US households by the end of 2022, with large markets such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami among those on tap for deployments this summer and into the fall, Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, told Light Reading. Pearl TV is a consortium of broadcasters spanning 820 stations in 198 US markets. Pearl TV members include Cox Media Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media Group, Hearst Television, Nexstar Media Group, Gray Television, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna.

This map offers a feel for the US markets where ATSC 3.0 is on-air (orange), launching this summer/fall (blue) and 'coming soon' (white). Check out WatchNextGenTV.com for a full list of the markets.  
(Source: WatchNextGenTV.com. Used with permission.)
This map offers a feel for the US markets where ATSC 3.0 is on-air (orange), launching this summer/fall (blue) and "coming soon" (white). Check out WatchNextGenTV.com for a full list of the markets.
(Source: WatchNextGenTV.com. Used with permission.)

Tuning in more TVs

Work is also underway to weave ATSC 3.0 into a broader range of new televisions and in accessories that can convert older TVs to receive NextGenTV signals.

About 70 TV models from Samsung, Sony and LG Electronics support ASTC 3.0 now, and more than 100 will support it by later this year, Schelle said.

Hisense is also on board to build TVs that integrate the new standard, and a partnership between Pearl TV and chipmaker MediaTek announced in January aims to bring NextGenTV to a broader scope of television brands, including high-volume, low-cost sets.

"We're scaling. Our goal right now is to enable access to NextGenTV on as many new models as we possibly can," Schelle said. Pearl TV, she added, plans to share more detail at this month's NAB show about how the industry is working to accelerate adoption of NextGenTV, and to show off advancements of "Run3TV," a platform that can be used to deliver interactive apps (such as advertising and sports scores) within the ATSC 3.0 signal to TV running various operating systems.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned accessories will enable older TVs for NextGenTV and possibly extend support to other devices, such as laptops and PCs.

Schelle said another promising use case for NextGenTV is automotive. In addition to delivering "infotainment" services to autos, ATSC 3.0's IP pipe could be used to update car software. A handful of broadcasters have been testing apps and services tied to automotive use cases at a "Motown 3.0 Open Test Track" in Detroit since late 2020.

There's been some work centered on prototype mobile phones outfitted with ATSC 3.0 technology. But Schelle doesn't see that as a major focus for NextGenTV, noting that it could be considered competitive to mobile carriers already using their 5G networks to deliver video. "That's a business decision, not a technology decision," she said.

Study: NextGenTV awareness jumps in launch markets

Deployments of NextGenTV and its advanced capabilities are still in the early stages. But a new study conducted by Magid in partnership with Dolby Laboratories indicates that consumer awareness is rising – at least in markets where it's available and being promoted with a mix of ads touting the various capabilities of NextGenTV. Pearl TV's latest NextGenTV-focused marketing campaign kicked off in November 2021 and ran through the holiday season in 17 major US TV markets.

The study, based on a survey of 2,800 consumers, found that 40% of consumers were aware of NextGenTV, up from 25% last year in markets where it's available, with half of that group currently using TVs supported by ATSC 3.0. Additionally, some 60% said they were more likely to purchase a NextGenTV after viewing a Dolby ad focused on enhanced audio that makes it easier to discern spoken dialog from the background audio.

The Magid study focused on 17 markets where Pearl TV ran a NextGenTV-focused ad campaign. The latest campaign included ads developed with Dolby that touted the enhanced audio capabilities of the new broadcast TV signaling standard.  
(Source: WatchNextGenTV.com. Used with permission.)
The Magid study focused on 17 markets where Pearl TV ran a NextGenTV-focused ad campaign. The latest campaign included ads developed with Dolby that touted the enhanced audio capabilities of the new broadcast TV signaling standard.
(Source: WatchNextGenTV.com. Used with permission.)

Schelle noted that the recent ad campaign also showed there's consumer interest in multiple NextGenTV features. But one area of interest that saw a big jump this time was an "upgradability" of NextGenTV sets that paved the way for sets to add new features and capabilities over time, she said.

The ad campaign also got a high response from so-called "cord-nevers" – consumers who aren't connected to broadcast TV from over-the-air signals or from a pay-TV service provider. Schelle said the study found that the cord-nevers group was highly likely to buy a digital antenna and TV to receive free NextGenTV services over the air.

"Those are the consumers we want to reach, the ones that are not connected to a broadcast television service," Schelle said.

Schelle said Pearl TV is working on some new creative for NextGenTV and some campaign updates that will employ social network elements and other tactics focused on the cord-never segment.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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