The broadcasting industry is on the verge of adopting ATSC 3.0, a next generation, IP-based, over-the-air broadcast standard that can deliver UHD TV to any television with a compatible tuner.
People of a certain age, including me, who remember the day when TV was three channels on a TV with aerials and vertical-hold problems will appreciate the idea of getting hundreds of streams or channels of 4k programming. People currently shackled to cable, Internet or satellite providers will appreciate the ability to get free content without fees, hassles, and throttling.
ATSC 3.0 would replace the current digital tuner standard, ATSC 1.0, which has been used since the digital switchover of 2009. The new standard enables better data rates over longer distances, with greater penetration than the existing signal—and programmability.
It's being rolled out first in South Korea, which has pushed for the standard to be ready for broadcasting the 2017 Winter Olympics in Seoul. Over the next few years, as TV makers as well as phone and device makers start adding ATSC 3.0-compatible turners to their products and broadcasters start sending out content on 3.0, stakeholders say, consumers will really start cutting the cord.
Those stakeholders can't predict how things will shake out when that happens, but they do believe that all current means of delivering content, from cable Internet to satellite to wireless broadband, get called into question.
"The transition to digital left the [broadcasting] business essentially unchanged, with few options to be competitive. This is a reset, a massive reset," said Mark Aitken, vice president of Advanced Technology for the Sinclair Broadcast Group. What started out as an effort to merely advance the digital standard is going "to reinvent the nature of the industry, not as TV but as a different kind of wireless provider."
That is the potential, certainly. The broadcasting industry has a great opportunity to bring back the good old days when the networks ruled the world. Success will depend on how well they adapt to the change this is going on all around broadcasters.
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.