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New TV Standard Turns on Broadcasters

Two months ago, the FCC announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NRPM) on a long-awaited new broadcast TV standard, known as ATSC 3.0. That action set in motion the process for adopting new US regulations, allowing for public comment on the proposed rules before the Commission took any formal action. (See FCC Issues Proposal to Authorize ATSC 3.0 Use.)

The move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was a watershed event for the US TV industry because the next-gen ATSC 3.0 standard could allow broadcasters to offer new, innovative video services to viewers without broadband connections. But the transition is still at an early stage, leaving many questions unanswered. (See FCC Moves Forward With New Broadcast Standard and Wheeler Pushing Hard on ATSC, Auction.)

In a recent survey of the broadcast industry, broadcast advertising technology company WideOrbit provides useful insight into what US broadcasters are thinking about ATSC 3.0 right now. With the annual NAB Show now going on in Las Vegas, this seems like an ideal time to look at the findings.

First, an impressive 71% of respondents agreed that ATSC 3.0 is an exciting technology, with more than half reporting their station group is actively evaluating adoption of the standard. However, knowledge among respondents remains limited, with 24% saying they have not yet heard of ATSC 3.0. Knowledge levels among the rest varied, with just 22% stating they were well educated about the new transmission standard.

Most respondents believed adoption of the standard is still at least a year away, with 39% saying they didn't know when ATSC 3.0 would be deployed by their company or were still evaluating its relevance. Asked to guess a timeline for adoption, more than half predicted it would start in 2018 or later.

The enthusiasm for ATSC 3.0 largely stems from its potential for generating new revenue, primarily new advertising revenue through increased ad inventory, cross-platform campaigns and better targeting and attribution capabilities. More than half of the respondents were also enthused about the potential for reaching audiences on new video delivery platforms.

The greatest challenge is likely to be the cost of deploying the new technology, with 66% selecting it. This is followed closely by a concern about consumer adoption, with 57% selecting that option. Because the FCC has (at least for now) chosen to make the transition to ATSC 3.0 voluntary, rather than mandatory, broadcasters are concerned about penetration of compatible devices and their ability to actually reach consumers with these newer services.

For more information about and analysis of the survey results, please turn to this story this story on our sister site, Telco Transformation.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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