NEXTGEN TV Fall 2019 Update

Back to the Future TV? When OTA TV transmission jumps 30 years ahead of today’s 20th century DTV technology, you’re going to see some serious content.

The post-Y2K broadcast television digital transition was expensive. When it began, stations had to replace all their SD gear with HD gear without a plan to increase HD revenues to cover the higher investments. One HD studio camera could easily cost more than $100,000. At home, early 42” plasma big screens cost about $5000. The government subsidized millions of digital HD to analog SD converter boxes to help consumers receive DTV on their old TV sets for under $100, without visible improvements.

The NEXTGEN TV transition has less of a plan. It is totally incompatible with today’s ATSC 1.0, there are no subsidized converter boxes, and markets will have to work out which station will remain the ATSC 1.0 “lighthouse” for viewers without new NEXTGEN TVs.

On the other hand, new 4K TV sets are cheap and nearly ubiquitous in stores. The difference between a 4K Smart TV you can buy today and a NEXTGEN TV you can buy sometime next year is a different receiver chip and some additional circuitry supporting the NEXTGEN TV internet connection. The resolution revolution has evolved beyond what TV viewers can perceive. Many consumers already own 4K cameras and displays. The new TV revolution is the technology to support new intellectual properties people haven't thought of yet. 

Stations won’t necessarily need new cameras or production gear, unless NEXTGEN TV increases the need for more local production. Technically, all it requires is a new exciter capable of generating an ATSC 3.0 signal, and RF transmission hardware capable of handling the slightly higher power levels. From there, the success of NEXTGEN TV depends entirely on what broadcasters choose to do with it.

One choice for broadcasters is to individually charge viewers for ‘premium services,’ possibly for 4K or private pay channels for example. The FCC only requires local ATSC 3.0 stations to transmit one free channel. Is pay TV the best business plan in a growing world of cord-cutters, streaming video and 5G TV? Providing high quality, OTA content free to all to watch is the foundation of local TV. The success of NEXTGEN TV will depend on station creativity, content, viewer response and sales results.

'Get Ready' for NEXTGEN TV

In late September, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced “NEXTGEN TV” as the go-to-market name for what broadcasters call ATSC 3.0, and it revealed the NEXTGEN TV logo for devices that meet ATSC 3.0 interoperability test specifications. The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) asked CTA to lead the ATSC 3.0 nomenclature and logo development.

In a pre-NAB NY show announcement the ATSC said that in 2020, ATSC 3.0 will be on the air in at least 61 markets, reaching 70% of viewers, and it urges broadcasters to ‘Get Ready.’

ATSC President Madeleine Noland said “Hundreds of industry experts created the ATSC 3.0 suite of standards behind NEXTGEN TV, and we’re working to educate broadcasters in a cooperative effort to simultaneously launch NEXTGEN TV while maintaining current digital TV broadcasts.  Our exhibit at NAB New York is one component of our campaign to help U.S. broadcasters with this transformative change that will deepen viewers’ connections to television.”

“The theme of the ATSC exhibit is ‘GET READY!’ and it will emphasize the fact that more than 60 markets are expected to launch ATSC 3.0 service by the end of next year. ATSC 3.0 experts will be available at the ATSC booth to answer attendees’ questions, and the ATSC 3.0 standard will be highlighted in multiple sessions covering everything from diversifying revenue streams to emergency alerting, to targeting with new advertising tools,” Noland continued.

The ATSC estimates some 20 exhibitors will feature ATSC 3.0 products and services at NAB NY 2019. ATSC is also producing a free “Producing and Protecting Content in ATSC 3.0,” session on the show floor.

Phoenix to Add 2nd Transmission Site for SFN

Leading up to NAB NY, the Phoenix Model Market partners and Pearl TV announced some developments that will positively impact the deployment of NEXTGEN TV signals throughout the country. Specifically, Phoenix will become the first market to have two ATSC 3.0 transmission towers with a SFN configuration, once the licenses are approved by the FCC and the facilities are on-air.

A second transmission facility for NEXTGEN TV broadcasts in Phoenix, AZ is planned for later this year to support a Single Frequency Network (SFN). 

“We’re excited to soon add a second transmission facility for NEXTGEN TV, powered by ATSC 3.0, to the Phoenix Model Market.  The E.W. Scripps Company is planning to build a NEXTGEN TV facility with KASW Television as the host station, along with Scripps-owned KNXV Television, and other stations in the Phoenix market,” said Brian Lawlor President of Local Media for Scripps.

“The KASW TV facility will provide one node (of a total of four total transmission locations) that will cover the Phoenix market with a very robust over-the-air signal using a Single Frequency Network. This new technology provides a means by which NEXTGEN TV can be transmitted on the same frequency at different locations throughout a local coverage area, thus increasing the signal strength to the viewer. The unique technology of NEXTGEN TV enables this capability for television broadcasters,” Dave Folsom, Pearl TV Lead Technical Engineer said.

Common Application Framework

A common “application framework” was shown publicly for the first time at NAB Show NY, with prototype TV receivers showing how the user experience will likely appear on various brands of consumer NEXTGEN TV sets.  Phoenix Model Market and Pearl TV showcased the new framework incubated in Phoenix as well as prototype NEXTGEN TV receivers in the ATSC booth on the NAB Show NY exhibit floor.

Designed to give local broadcasters the ability to differentiate the viewing experience with their own branding and interactive features, the initial launch featured a new interactive menu available for viewing live over-the-air TV and weather updates and locally generated video-on-demand functionality.

“Host Station Manual” for Engineers

Engineers who have worked in the Phoenix Model Market project over the past year have produced a near 100-page “Host Station Manual” that will help the dozens of stations soon to be launching in the Top 40 largest TV markets across the country.

“This comprehensive guide will be a tremendous asset to station engineers who must now maneuver the complexities of launching an ATSC 3.0 Host Station and mixing signals from various broadcasters and sources.  We know that it will take a tremendous amount of cooperation to launch NEXTGEN TV services powered by ATSC 3.0 while at the same time maintaining ATSC 1.0 channels that are today watched by viewers.  That’s why Pearl TV and the Phoenix Model Market partners are launching both the Host Station Manual and also an informative video that will be useful in explaining how channel sharing will be necessary,” explained Pearl TV managing director Anne Schelle. 

The updated StreamScope XM includes several new features and advancements.

The updated StreamScope XM includes several new features and advancements.

Triveni Digital Enhances NEXTGEN TV Solutions 

Triveni Digital highlighted new enhancements to its end-to-end ATSC 3.0 solutions at NAB NY. Triveni Digital's StreamScope XM Verifier, StreamScope XM MT Analyzer, GuideBuilder XM ATSC 3.0 Transport Encoder, and a new Advanced Emergency Alert (AEA) Editor were at the heart of several demonstrations with partners, showcasing how broadcasters can make a smooth transition to the ATSC 3.0 era and deliver next-generation television experiences to viewers while maintaining the broadcasters' main ATSC 1.0 revenues.

Triveni Digital also unveiled new features for its StreamScope XM Verifier software application for receiving, verifying, and recording ATSC 3.0 broadcast streams via ROUTE, MMTP, or SLTP protocols. The most significant enhancement is support for multiple PLPs within a broadcast transmission. In addition, StreamScope XM Verifier now offers a wide range of RF advancements (e.g., LP bars, bootstrap data, L1 basic data, L1 detailed data, L1 PLP data, quick status, and subframe data), providing broadcasters with improved analysis and visibility into ATSC 3.0 quality of service.

Triveni Digital and technology partners demonstrated how broadcasters can control and distribute interactive emergency applications and information in an ATSC 3.0 environment. Easy to integrate into existing workflows, the end-to-end solution includes user-interface templates based on AWARN focus group and developed with the support of NAB Pilot.

Alticast and Triveni Digital will demonstrate a joint solution with technology partner Alticast at the NAB NY that enables an interactive viewing experience based on the capabilities of ATSC 3.0. Developed in collaboration with Michigan State University's WKAR-TV PBS station, the NAB NY demo will highlight how broadcasters can enhance the viewing experience for educational material with NEXTGEN TV interactive content and companion device features. The solution is powered by Alticast's software receiver and an end-to-end ATSC 3.0 broadcast service delivery system from Triveni Digital.

Magid Research Shows Interest

According to consumer research conducted by Magid on behalf of Pearl TV, American consumers react positively to the new NEXTGEN TV logo and key messaging about NEXTGEN TV. Online interviews for the Magid survey were conducted in August 2019 with 1,000 U.S. adults (18-74 years old) as well as with another 300 viewers who rely on an antenna for TV service.

About half of respondents lived in the West and Midwest, with the balance split between the South and Northeast U.S. The sample was 52% female and 48% male, and equally split between Boomers, Gen X and Millennial consumers. The youngest consumers made up about 5% of survey respondents. “Almost two-thirds of those surveyed have a positive impression of the new NEXTGEN TV logo, and fewer than 5% had a negative reaction. And 73% say that the term NEXTGEN TV is synonymous with the future of TV,” said Bill Hague, Executive VP at Magid.

A DS Broadcast HFR IRD (top) and HFR Encoder were used to achieve 120 FPS broadcasts.

A DS Broadcast HFR IRD (top) and HFR Encoder were used to achieve 120 FPS broadcasts.

120 FPS TV

In a broadcast industry first, High Frame Rate 120Hz video has been transmitted by a NextGen TV transmitter as part of the Phoenix Model Market project.  The High Frame Rate 120Hz video was encoded by the DS Broadcast Model BGE9300 Encoder, received on the company’s Model BGD4100 Integrated Receiver Decoder, and displayed on Ultra HDTV screens in Phoenix.

“While NextGen TV will generally be transmitted at 60 frames a second, which will be a significant improvement, the ‘holy grail’ for sports fans is 120Hz (or High Frame Rate) transmissions paired with High Dynamic Range video.  This combination creates an exceptionally immersive experience, even with 2K video sources.  It’s even more impressive than 4K video to the average viewe, and the combination of High Frame Rate with High Dynamic Range is also very efficient for broadcasters, consuming little additional bandwidth,” said Dave Folsom, consulting engineer for the Phoenix Model Market project.

“The BGE9300 Encoder is ideal for high action sports or any content where there is a tremendous amount of movement, such as the fishing and running water video used in this first-ever U.S. transmission,” said Chris Lee, Director of Marketing and Sales for Korea-based DS Broadcast, which is also a key supplier of ATSC 3.0 broadcast equipment for South Korean broadcasters and exhibited in booth N366 at NAB Show NY.

The BGE9300 High Frame Rate Encoder features ATSC 3.0 or MPEG-2 TS multiplex, HEVC Main/Main10 encoding at multiple frame rates (100/120/119.88).  The encoder supports High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut, IEEE 1588v2 PTP synchronization, and Dolby AC-4.  Inputs include SDI or SMPTE ST 2110 with embedded 16x audio channels, and is designed for 24/7 service.

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