CHAT ROOM: ‘Game Changer’

In the Chat Room this month, as a curtain-raiser to the 2018 NAB Show, THE STANDARD sat down with Sen. Gordon Smith, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. Check out his insights about the show and Next Gen TV that put the work of ATSC members in perspective.  

THE STANDARD: Senator Smith, we’re all looking forward to the biggest broadcasting extravaganza of the year, this month’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. How does ATSC 3.0 fit into the show’s “The M.E.T. Effect” theme?

SMITH: How does it not? M.E.T. stands for “Media. Entertainment. Technology.” Next Gen TV will revolutionize how broadcasters think about all three of these. ATSC 3.0 allows us to broadcast programming with more robust picture and sound quality, and provide more programming streams in high-definition. We can offer entertainment programming with interactive features ranging from multiple camera angles to localized content to addressable advertising. The standard also combines the efficiency of broadcast architecture with the advantages of broadband, while datacasting and mobile delivery are among the new services we can provide.

Once again, Next Gen TV’s cutting-edge features will be on display at NAB Show, both in the Grand Lobby and in the North Hall. And, we’ll be honoring Sinclair’s Mark Aitken [with the NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award] for his contributions in helping to bring Next Gen TV to fruition.

THE STANDARD: From the beginning, NAB has been a strong advocate for Next Gen TV and advancing the rulemaking process through the FCC. Now that the rules are in place and the suite of ATSC 3.0 standards has been released, what’s next for TV stations and networks, especially with the spectrum repack looming?

SMITH: For years, NAB has partnered with a number of broadcasters to test Next Gen TV, including in Cleveland where we broadcast the first World Series game and in Raleigh where we broadcast the first Olympics programming with ATS3. Other broadcasters have tested the standard or have announced tests in places like Phoenix, Dallas and Baltimore. The NAB Show will feature a panel discussion [April 7 at 3:20 p.m. PDT] to discuss these experiments and the progress broadcasters are making in understanding how to bring the standard to market.

With hundreds of TV stations needing to acquire new equipment, the spectrum repack may in fact make it easier for broadcasters to transition to 3.0. Much of the equipment available today allows for broadcasts in both the new and the current standard, so broadcasters won’t necessarily have to buy equipment to complete the repack and then visit the store again as they make the transition to Next Gen. 

THE STANDARD: Despite a vocal minority of naysayers out there, you’ve made the case that innovation is alive and well in broadcasting. Which of the innovations behind the ATSC 3.0 standards do you see as most impactful, both for viewers and for broadcasters?

SMITH: The mobility factor is going to be huge. With Next Gen, live and local TV will be available on-the-go on smartphones, tablets and all the devices that younger audiences are embracing. I believe the advanced emergency alerting services can provide enormous benefits for viewers. Think about the number of lives that could be saved with the ability to wake up devices with targeted emergency warnings. If a tornado touches down in the middle of the night, we can make sure those in its path can get to safety. Interactive evacuation maps can also be a lifesaving tool that directs people to the quickest route away from danger. From a public safety perspective alone, 3.0 Next Gen TV is a game-changer.