PRESIDENT’S MEMO: Memorable Moments

2018 has been a landmark year – punctuated by the release of the ATSC 3.0 standard and initial deployments of Next Gen TV stations and services. The FCC’s rules took effect for voluntary implementation of Next Gen TV powered by ATSC 3.0. Leadership of the ATSC Technology Group transitioned to LG’s Madeleine Noland from Triveni Digital’s Rich Chernock. Following South Korea’s ATSC 3.0 launch, other international interest emerged in Brazil, India and China.

The ATSC developed new recommended practices and continued refining standards this year. To help educate the industry, we partnered with the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers. NAB has been running a series of ATSC 3.0 webinars, too.  And 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance (which created the foundation for ATSC 1.0) and the 35th anniversary of the ATSC itself.

Here’s a look back at five key milestones this year:

1. It’s Official

The ATSC started the year with a bang with the official release of the suite of 20-plus standards known as ATSC 3.0, the culmination of a five-year effort to rethink over-the-air broadcast television service in the Internet age. It was the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. Marking the milestone at CES® 2018 in January, I was joined onstage by CTA President & CEO Gary Shapiro and NAB President & CEO Gordon Smith.

Gary Shapiro (CTA), Sen. Gordon Smith (NAB), Mark Ritcher (ATSC)

“Coupled with the latest innovations in display technology, Next Gen TV powered by ATSC 3.0 will offer a breathtakingly immersive viewing experience with access to an array of innovative and interactive information services,” Shapiro said. “Broadcasters stand ready to take full advantage of the capabilities of the new voluntary standard, which can seamlessly mix both broadcast and broadband content to enhance information and entertainment for our viewers,” said Smith.

2. Olympic-sized Achievements

In South Korea, following months of preparation by the government, broadcasters and manufacturers, historic ATSC 3.0 broadcasts of the XXIII Winter Olympics in PyeongChang showed the world the incredible capabilities of the newly released Next Gen TV standard.  From the opening to closing ceremonies and countless memorable competitions in between, Korean broadcasters delivered stunning 4K UHD images of the Games, while also demonstrating exciting new mobile capabilities for the first time.

Closer to home, in Raleigh, North Carolina, digital TV pioneer Capitol Broadcasting in cooperation with NBC Universal and manufacturers hosted the first ATSC 3.0 Winter Olympics broadcast in the United States – complete with 4K UHD with HDR, mobile and advanced emergency alerting capabilities, as well as interactive technologies that provided real-time updates of medal counts, athletes’ background and targeted ads. In addition to this latest milestone by WRAL-TV, the Games were broadcast in 4K at the NAB-CTA test station in Cleveland, Ohio.

3. On the Air!

A dozen local TV stations launched the groundbreaking ATSC 3.0 “Phoenix Model Market.” Managed by Pearl TV, it’s the first collaborative single-market effort to plan for and implement a transition to over-the-air Next Gen TV broadcasting. The Phoenix, Arizona project builds on early ATSC 3.0 broadcasts by the joint NAB-CTA test station in Cleveland and by Capitol Broadcasting/WRAL-TV in Raleigh, and Sinclair Broadcast Group in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Other 2018 ATSC 3.0 broadcast launches included Sinclair in Dallas, Texas; WatchTV in Portland, Oregon; WKAR-TV in East Lansing, Michigan; News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting in Santa Barbara, California; and Weigel Broadcasting in Chicago, Illinois. In Brazil, TV Globo launched experimental ATSC 3.0 broadcasts in conjunction with World Cup soccer. Capping the year, top executives from Fox, NBC, Nexstar, Pearl TV, SpectrumCo, TEGNA Telemundo and Univision gathered at the NAB New York show to announce their collaboration on the widespread introduction of ATSC 3.0 by 2020.

4. Ubiquitous ATSC 3.0

More than 40 exhibitors showcasing ATSC 3.0 products and services at the 2018 NAB Show signaled the arrival of the new broadcast standard designed to seamlessly meld over-the-air with over-the-top content. Next Gen TV was the talk of the show, and the epicenter of activity was the “Road to ATSC 3.0” exhibit in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center – co-hosted by ATSC, CTA and NAB and sponsored by Pearl TV, Sinclair, LG, Dolby, Sony, the AWARN Alliance and others.

The exhibit highlighted ATSC 3.0 implementation plans across the United States – Phoenix, Dallas, Cleveland, Raleigh, Portland, Las Vegas, Washington, Baltimore and East Lansing – and deployments in South Korea.  In Futures Park in the North Hall, ATSC Implementation Teams demonstrated capabilities of the new broadcast standard.  Really on the Road to ATSC 3.0, the “Next Gen TV Autonomous Transport” displayed live ATSC 3.0 broadcasts while shuttling attendees between the Central and South Halls during the show.

5. Planning Ahead

Looking ahead to what someday may become ATSC 4.0, the ATSC Board of Directors formed two new Planning Teams in 2018: one for next-generation video technologies (exploring things like advanced new codecs and 8K), and another for automotive applications (investigating how ATSC 3.0 can deliver robust data for telematics, infotainment and more). While the ATSC’s near-term focus centers on updating standards and supporting Next Gen TV deployments, forming the new Planning Teams speaks volumes about the ATSC’s commitment to driving the future of television for decades to come. Interested members are invited to join these trailblazing efforts in 2019.

The ATSC is fortunate to have a talented, experienced and engaged board of directors, which drives our overarching strategy. This is especially critical as the ATSC and our members continue to develop and update standards and support the implementation of Next Gen TV powered by ATSC 3.0.  

Congratulations to newly-elected members of the ATSC Board of Directors whose three-year terms start in January: Jim DeChant, Ira Goldstone, Anne Schelle and Dave Siegler. Sincere thanks to board members whose terms expire at the end of 2018: Brett Jenkins, Rich Friedel, Glenn Reitmeier and Wayne Luplow

As we wrap up another impactful year, I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank the hundreds of talented individuals who participated in our work in 2018 as the industry progresses along the Road to ATSC 3.0.  Here’s to a healthy and safe holiday season!

Mark Richer, ATSC President