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ATSC 3.0: The secret to new revenue generation

December 17, 2021 by Alan Young, CTO, and Head of Strategy
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Today, station groups are sitting on an under-appreciated asset that telcos would likely pay billions of dollars for: Broadcast Spectrum. The scale for monetizing the investment is potentially huge. Station owners know the ATSC 3.0 standard opens up greater opportunities to push more channels to market quicker and generate new revenue streams, including using some of the spectrum for non-TV uses.

What exactly is ATSC 3.0?

Created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), ATSC 3.0 is the first significant overhaul since the introduction of ATSC 1.0 in 1996. ATSC 3.0 was launched in May 2020 in Las Vegas stations owned by three of the US’s largest broadcasters, Nexstar Media Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and E.W. Scripps.

The new codified broadcast standard for OTA transmission emulates the way internet and digital services are delivered. The all-IP transmission system enables two-way interactivity and multiscreen applications with personalization. Among other features that will enhance digital broadcasting and reshape the viewing experience, ATSC 3.0 supports 4K UHD resolution, HDR video quality, and Dolby Atmos enhanced sound.

However, ATSC 3.0 won't be widely adopted before NextGen TVs are commonplace in consumer households. The numbers look good — Sales forecasts envision two million receivers by the end of 2021, four million in 2022, and 11 million in 2023 plus a new line of 3.0 set-top boxes. Sinclair has stated that NextGen TV signals reach 22% of households in the station’s footprints. Consumers are already hungry for ATSC 3.0. — station owners need to be greedy.

Consumers are already hungry for ATSC 3.0. — station owners need to be greedy.

More broadcast spectrum. More revenue opportunities

ATSC 3.0’s OFDM-based modulation gives station groups 3x more spectral efficiency. The additional capacity provided can be sold for use in various services outside of the broadcast space, such as datacasting, enhanced GPS services, in-car infotainment, autonomous vehicle control, and a host of IoT use cases.

ATSC 3.0’s OFDM-based modulation gives station groups 3x more spectral efficiency.

The challenges

ATSC 3.0 is an all IP standard and its adoption requires stations to have an all-IP multicast infrastructure to unlock the full spectral efficiency through a Single Frequency Network (SFN). Building a multicast IP-based transport network that’s reliable and scalable can be extremely challenging for TV stations because broadcast has up to now been based on dedicated infrastructure and standards.

Building a multicast IP-based transport network that’s reliable and scalable can be extremely challenging for TV stations because broadcast has up to now been based on dedicated infrastructure and standards.

ATSC 3.0: Navigating the hurdles

While it’s possible to build a multicast IP network from scratch, most broadcast engineers lack the expertise, time, and resources to build and maintain one. Another option is working with an existing IP network designed for broadcast-grade reliability, such as LTN’s managed network. Having a proven industry partner that handles the technology and service together enables stations to reap the rewards of ATSC 3.0 faster — and with less headache — while allowing them to focus resources elsewhere.

Having a proven industry partner that handles the technology and service together enables stations to reap the rewards of ATSC 3.0 faster — and with less headache — while allowing them to focus resources elsewhere.

The benefits of acting now

The adoption of ATSC 3.0 opens the door to a plethora of revenue opportunities outside of traditional TV use cases. In order to fully realize the value, it is imperative that the transition from ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0 happens as quickly as possible. This can only occur if the adoption of ATSC 3.0 TVs is driven by a significant number of stations broadcasting in the new standard. As soon as there is a critical mass the ATSC 1.0 transmitters can be converted to ATSC 3.0 as well, driving even more capacity for new applications. The longer the rollout takes the longer the wait will be to harness the full benefits — including huge revenue opportunities.

Technology companies with a broadcast background like LTN are ready to position stations for success — while making the transition to ATSC 3.0 relatively painless. They offer a turnkey, fully managed solution that helps stations see the big picture and quickly take advantage of all that ATSC 3.0 has to offer right away rather than wait for consumers or resources to catch up to the demand.

In order to fully realize the value, it is imperative that the transition from ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0 happens as quickly as possible.
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