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What Is ATSC 3.0 and Is it Coming for Streaming?

Questions abound about ATSC 3.0, aka NextGen TV: Is it OTA? Is it OTT? Is it CTV? Can my TV play it? Is it coming for streaming with its promise of new lean-forward, interactive consumer experiences and addressable advertising? Where does it overlap with OTT and FAST, and what does it offer viewers that they aren’t getting from OTA TV now? Rob Dillon, Principal Strategist, Dillon Media Ventures, explores these questions with Madeleine Noland, President, Advanced Television Systems Committee Inc., Kerry Oslund, VP, Strategy & Business Development, E.W. Scripps, and Scott Ehrlich, Vice President, Emerging Platform Content, Sinclair Broadcast Group, in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2024.

Dillon says to the group, “Is ATSC a hybrid OTA, or is it OTT? Is it coming for streaming? Is it coming for broadcast? How do they work together?”

A Seamless Blend of OTA and OTT

Noland breaks down the technical aspects of ATSC 3.0 and discusses how it can be used without a broadband connection while offering enhanced features when connected to the internet. She says that a broadband connection is not necessary to watch an ATSC 3.0 TV, however if a broadband connection is available, it can greatly enhance the viewing experience. Imagine you're watching a program on linear TV, you tune in, and it first says, ‘Do you want to start this program over? We noticed you tuned in 12 minutes late.’ Wait a minute. Do I get to watch linear TV on demand over the air? Really? So you go, ‘Yes,’ and suddenly the program just starts over from the beginning, and you're watching that, and then you have an option. Do you want to return to live TV? Sure, go ahead. And you can say, ‘Oh, I'm going to channel up, down. I'm going to do all the different things that I have always done with TV. The viewer doesn't know that the minute you clicked yes to start over TV, you switched seamlessly from the over-the-air (OTA) linear feed coming in on your antenna to an over-the-top (OTT) streaming feed coming in off of your broadband connection. But the coolest thing about it is that the user experience is seamless. And so you're bopping between streaming and linear without even knowing.”

Better User Engagement and Enhanced Addressable Advertising

Oslund further highlights the interactive features of ATSC, such as voting or purchasing through the remote control, and how the technology also better enables addressable advertising. “If you want to be engaged, we can create ways for a consumer to be further engaged in the programming,” he says. “Think of the words win, play, vote, buy…be better informed, all through your remote control, and then business models that support all of those things along the way. So the viewer and the advertising experience will be very interactive, much like the streaming experience, and also when it comes to revenue creation in addressable advertising.”

How ATSC 3.0 Can Enable Bespoke and "Pop-Up" Local Channels

Ehrlich says that ATSC can also enable the delivery of new, bespoke, local channels via OTA. In contrast, now, with OTT, it can primarily only be delivered via Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST). “One of the ways 3.0 could be used is just more channels back to the multicast point, but it can be enabled in personalized ways,” he says. “If I know it's you, I can serve things to you. I can do a lot of the things that we can do on CTV today. CTV is a little bit of a petri dish for what we can do on television. And [Sinclair] just launched 25 local FAST news channels.” He mentions that, years ago, Cablevision launched MSG Metro Channels in New York. “It was this package of three channels,” he says. “One was a dedicated local news channel, one was a dedicated local traffic channel, and the other was a dedicated local events channel. But, today, these types of bespoke local channels [can only be done over FAST], but to be able to have them on FAST and over the air starts to become a more complete broadcast picture.”

Oslund brings up the unique possibility of “pop-up” channels, “Where a channel doesn't exist today, but it exists tomorrow, and it exists for the next 30 days, because it's all about the Iowa State Fair, and then it goes away,” he says. "I think you're going to see business models and channels like that start happening on over-the-air television.”

See videos of the full program from Streaming Media Connect February 2024 here.

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