First Live Sports ATSC 3.0 Broadcast is a Grand Slam

Experimental Next Generation TV station transmits the first live MLB World Series game broadcast in ATSC 3.0.

Local Fox affiliate WJW-TV in Cleveland is ushering in the era of Next Gen TV broadcasting with the first live ATSC 3.0 broadcast of a major professional sporting event, The Major League Baseball World Series. The game was broadcast in ATSC 3.0 on Wednesday night, 26 October 2016.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) received an FCC experimental license to operate a full-power Channel 31 transmitter in Cleveland as a living laboratory for broadcasters and manufacturers creating the Next Gen TV service. The ATSC 3.0 broadcasts are using the transmitter and broadcast facilities of WJW, the Tribune Media-owned Fox affiliate in Cleveland.

The experimental station is simulcasting network and local programming from the local Fox affiliate as the American League’s Cleveland Indians host the National League’s Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field in the World Series in ATSC 3.0. The game was produced and simulcast in HD.

Delighted Fox Sports executives Jonathan Butnick, left, Mike Davies, center, and Eddie Motl, right, watch the Wednesday night game over the air on an ATSC 3.0-equipped 65-inch LG OLED TV.

Delighted Fox Sports executives Jonathan Butnick, left, Mike Davies, center, and Eddie Motl, right, watch the Wednesday night game over the air on an ATSC 3.0-equipped 65-inch LG OLED TV.

With the support of Tribune Media, Fox and the NAB, the ATSC 3.0 World Series broadcasts are made possible by several technical contributions. GatesAir provided an ATSC 3.0 exciter for over-the-air transmission. LG Electronics supplied ATSC 3.0 receivers and receiving antennas. Harmonic provided real-time encoders for HEVC video and Dolby AC4 audio, and Triveni Digital furnished signaling/announcement metadata, IP stream generation, ATSC 3.0 analyzer, and system integration support.

Field trials of the ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer standard using the Cleveland station were conducted this past summer by GatesAir and digital TV pioneers LG Electronics and its U.S. R&D subsidiary, Zenith. The trials generated literally tens of thousands of data points showing how Next Gen TV with ATSC 3.0 can deliver 4K Ultra HD content, excellent robust mobile reception, deep indoor reception by fixed receivers and unparalleled spectrum efficiency.

Not all the action was on the field. The Fox Sports production unit was the scene of the live simulcast feed.

Not all the action was on the field. The Fox Sports production unit was the scene of the live simulcast feed.

“This is a defining moment for the future of television. Together with Tribune Media, the NAB and our technology partners, we are showing the FCC and our fellow broadcasters that Next Gen TV is a grand slam home run,” said Richard Friedel, executive vice president and general manager for Fox Networks Engineering and Operations. Friedel spearheaded the project and is also 2016 ATSC Board Chairman.


Engineers and executives tuned in to experimental Channel 31.

Engineers and executives tuned in to experimental Channel 31.

Tribune Broadcasting’s Director of Engineering Operations Bill VanDuynhoven echoed Friedel’s remarks: “With this test station we’re swinging for the fences, putting the new transmission standard through its paces to demonstrate that ATSC 3.0 technologies are real and can deliver meaningful benefits to broadcasters and viewers alike.”

Sam Matheny, NAB executive vice president and chief technology officer, called the new Cleveland Next Gen TV test station a platform for demonstrating the Big League capabilities of the ATSC 3.0 suite of standards. “ATSC 3.0 standards are nearing completion, and over the coming months in conjunction with partners, we expect to test real-world Next Gen TV applications like UHD TV, interactive services, targeted advertising, advanced emergency alerting, and more.”

All photos courtesy Phil Long/AP Images for the Advanced Television Systems Committee.

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