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A Basic Overview of ATSC 3.0

The world of broadcast television is changing. The rise of subscription video on demand services has given broadcast TV its first taste of major competition. Now, while many of you might not use over-the-air television signals for your video content these days, there are still millions of Americans that do. Which is why the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) moving into their 3.0 system is such a big deal. We’ll break down the specifics of what you as a consumer can expect in 3.0, but first let’s go over what exactly the ATSC is.

What is the ATSC?

The Advanced Television Systems Committee is an international conglomerate comprised of television manufacturers, broadcasters and large tech companies. Essentially, the ATSC is the group that gets to dictate what the over-the-air TV signals look like. The ATSC was established 25 years ago to shepherd the transition of content into the first high-definition age. They are responsible for all of the free 1080i and 720p content on broadcast television. However, in 2016 the difference between 720p and Ultra HD content is akin to comparing black-and-white television to color–the contrast is stark. Now, the ATSC is ready to provide their first major update in decades with ATSC 3.0.

What is ATSC 3.0?

ATSC spokesman Rich Chernock told CNET reporter Geoffrey Morrison that ATSC 3.0 is designed “…to provide broadcasters with a new set of tools that would allow them to construct new services to match their business models.” The critical first step clearly being to move the standard over-the-air broadcast resolution to the new Ultra HD (4K) format. Though we won’t actually have free 4K TV programming for a few more years, ATSC 3.0 will lay all the framework needed to make it happen.

Future Proof

Not only are major resolution changes coming, but if you look over the specific changes coming to ATSC 3.0 it quickly becomes apparent that 3.0 is designed to be future-proof. What we mean by that is ATSC 3.0 is designed to lay down a malleable foundation that will be able to integrate future technology leaps without major disruptions in service. The perfect example of this is the change 3.0 is bringing to the way we use the airwaves. Unlike ATSC 1.0, ATSC 3.0 is designed to thrive in a world where most devices are connected via the internet. This means that ATSC 3.0 will operate as a hybrid system: audio and video content can be sent via over-the-airwaves while targeted ads can be distributed via a broadband connection.


One of the reasons cable companies have been so dominant in the advertising space is because of the ad restrictions that are in place with the ATSC 1.0 system. For example, when ATSC moves into 3.0, broadcasters will immediately be able to take advantage of geo-locational ad targeting–something that was exclusive to cable and satellite providers in the past. ATSC 3.0 will also provide advertisers with significantly more data, specifically the ability to measure commercial viewership as well as program viewership. This opens up immeasurable options for advertising in the future.

There are still a number of factors to consider surrounding the release of ATSC 3.0, and full implementation is likely a year or two down the road. However, the changes that ATSC 3.0 will bring to the television landscape are not to be underestimated. ATSC is making monumental changes for the better, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as the details are finalized leading into Q2 of 2017.



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