December 18, 2020

Creating a future proof path for US broadcasters

As the year draws to a close, Nick Wymant looks at how ATSC3.0 will change how over-the-air TV works at a fundamental level and the opportunities this presents for US broadcasters.

Nick Wymant, Global Product Manager Broadcast

ATSC3.0 will bring around a real range of very positive changes that revolutionize the way terrestrial TV works. The new standard completely modernizes over-the-air broadcasting, bringing more interactive and feature rich content and allowing viewers to access services on mobile devices. In short, it brings the over-the-air viewing experience much more in line with the needs of a modern audience and allows it to truly compete with the growing OTT market. 

Looking ahead 

However, NEXTGEN TV goes beyond improving viewer experiences, and, deployed correctly, can give broadcasters the foundation future developments. 

NEXTGEN TV infrastructure will create a unique style of network for broadcasters. The standard requires a hybrid broadcast and IP-based delivery system, meaning it can carry internet content and services alongside the traditional over-the-air broadcast signal. This is the first network of its kind and with the demand for IP based services skyrocketing, by moving to ATSC3.0 standards, broadcasters will inadvertently create a delivery network that has potential revenue streams beyond its primary purpose. In fact, research from WideOrbit reported 69.9% of broadcasters saw meeting ATSC3.0 standards as a potential revenue driver. 

So, how do broadcasters go about making this a reality and what do they stand to gain?

The rise of the SFN 

In order to build a network that will meet these new standards, broadcasting infrastructure will need to undergo a major transformation. Single Frequency Networks (SFN) are a critical part of realizing the potential of NEXTGEN TV and so broadcasters must now look at the best way to go about building this new style of broadcasting network. 

SFNs offer a huge range of advantages for broadcasters; better coverage, lower power usage, higher reliability, and they are capable of delivering the hybrid broadcast and IP-based system defined by ATSC3.0. They are ideal for the geotargeted and the enriched content that is part and parcel of what NEXTGEN TV will look like for consumers and creating the additional revenue opportunities broadcasters are set to benefit from as part of the upgrade. 

Getting the infrastructure right

One of the big challenges on the way to NEXTGEN TV is infrastructure. Broadcasters need to put in place networks that are up to meeting ATSC3.0 standards not just in principle but in practicality. When designing the networks, simulation of how the broadcasting set up will overcome physical challenges is vital. Broadcasters must work with their infrastructure providers to design radiation patterns that meet the needs of their region without coverage gaps, and without interference or disruption. 

Additionally, having gone through an intense period of investment, broadcasters have even greater pressure to ensure that the upfront costs when it comes to NEXTGEN TV equipment, are protected and look to install equipment that will see them through not only this phase of the evolution of broadcasting, but continue to serve them over the next decade.  

Part of this must be to focus on the needs broadcasters have today and tomorrow, but an eye must be firmly fixed on the convergence of the telecoms and broadcasting industries. As the two areas see increasing amounts of overlap, understanding the trajectory for this convergence and how they, as a broadcaster, will navigate this is critical. 

Not just a stepping-stone, it’s the foundation of 5G Broadcast

Looking to the future, it is understandable to ask why not skip ahead to 5G broadcast? We know it’s coming, and it is the next step for many other regions. However, in reality, the scale and geography of the US make 5G broadcasting an impossible proposition over the next few years. Operators do not have the capacity to scale up 5G networks quickly enough to deliver broadcasting and it isn’t their priority to. 

However, rather than lagging behind, this actually builds a firmer foundation for the US broadcasting market as 5G becomes part and parcel of the delivery of television. The combination of broadcast and IP-based delivery that broadcasters are building to meet ATSC3.0 standards is set to build a comprehensive and robust failover system. Broadcasters will, by coincidence, have access to an enviable network for the delivery of IP-based content that can be both used to support broadcasting or monetized to those looking for capacity to introduce another revenue stream. Ultimately, the ATSC3.0 standard will give the US market a truly futureproof foundation for content delivery by having to use this interim stepping-stone and at RFS we are at the forefront of developing solutions to support this.

If you are interested in speaking to our broadcast team about how we can help to build future ready broadcast infrastructure get in touch with Nick Wymant, Global Product Manager Broadcast.


About the author

Nick Wymant

Global Product Manager Broadcast