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ATSC 3.0 TV Standard Will Launch in Multiple Cities by End of 2020; You’ll Need a New TV or Converter to Watch

Phillip Dampier April 9, 2019 Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 4 Comments

A new standard in over-the-air TV broadcasting could arrive as early as this year in more than 40 U.S. cities, bringing better reception and more TV channels and features to those willing to buy a new television or converter box to watch.

ATSC 3.0 comes just a decade after full power television stations in the United States ceased analog broadcasting. The ‘upgrade’ is a significant improvement over ATSC 1.0, the digital over-the-air television standard now in use in the U.S.

At the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Sinclair, Fox Television Stations, Nexstar, and NBCUniversal (and a consortium group of stations owned by SpectrumCo and Pearl TV) this week announced 40 U.S. television markets would see ATSC 3.0 stations launched by the end of 2020, starting in these cities:

  • Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ*
  • Seattle-Tacoma, WA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL
  • Portland, OR
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Raleigh-Durham, NC*
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Nashville, TN
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Kansas City, KS-MO
  • Columbus, OH
  • West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Austin, TX

To help the transition, ATSC 3.0 stations in these cities will switch off their ATSC 1.0 channels and relocate programming to one or more other local stations’ digital subchannels, allowing viewers with older sets to continue watching until a 5-year transition period ends.

The second, and likely larger wave of stations to switch on ATSC 3.0 will come in these cities:

  • New York, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Washington, DC
  • Boston, MA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Tampa-St.Petersburg-Sarasota, FL
  • Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN
  • Miami – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Denver, CO
  • Cleveland-Akron, OH*
  • Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • San Diego, CA
  • Hartford-New Haven, CT
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Greenville-Spartanburg, SC – Asheville, NC

The third wave of stations, still expected to complete a transition to ATSC 3.0 by the end of next year, are located in:

  • Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Albuquerque – Santa Fe, NM
  • Grand Rapids – Kalamazoo, MI
  • Memphis, TN
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Providence – New Bedford, RI
  • Little Rock – Pine Bluff, AR
  • Mobile, AL – Pensacola, FL
  • Albany-Schenectady – Troy, NY
  • Flint-Saginaw – Bay City, MI
  • Omaha, NE
  • Charleston – Huntington, WV
  • Springfield, MO
  • Rochester, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Charleston, SC
  • Burlington, VT – Plattsburgh, NY
  • Davenport, IA – Moline, IL
  • Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo, CA

*ATSC 3.0 is already running on one or more stations in these markets.

A faster transition to ATSC 3.0 may be possible in cities where station owners like Sinclair own more than one full power local station. It will make it easier for programming on one station to be temporarily shared on another, without complicated carriage contract negotiations. There is no forced transition to ATSC 3.0, so consumers can make their own choices about whether they want to invest in new televisions or converters. Broadcasters understand that, and many are planning to launch a host of new channels and networks that could benefit cord-cutters and convince them to upgrade.

Over the air viewers will need to get in the habit of remembering how to “rescan” their local channel lineup as stations occasionally disappear as they move to different channels as a result of an unrelated ongoing channel repack or from shifting around to accommodate ATSC 3.0. Some secondary networks like Retro TV, MeTV, Comet, and others may temporarily disappear in some markets if that channel space is temporarily needed for channel-sharing arrangements.

Cable, telco-TV, streaming and satellite customers should not notice a thing because any changes will be managed by your television provider. But those watching over-the-air will need to prepare for the transition either with a forthcoming TV converter or preparing to buy new television sets with ATSC 3.0 tuners. Details on both are sketchy, but free TV viewers may want to start saving money now for new equipment spending starting either late this year or more likely early next.

ATSC 3.0 promises better, more robust reception, with error correction and the capability of downgrading video quality in marginal reception areas to preserve a stable viewing experience. It also supports 4K Ultra-HD and better sound, mobile viewing on smartphones and other devices, and local features including hyper-local weather warnings, targeted advertising and some data applications.

Currently there are 4 comments on this Article:

  1. Josh says:

    I’m sort of excited by ATSC 3.0, but also worried about what we’ll be left with. Whether it really requires the internet.

    And whether TiVo is going to have a 3.0 model…

  2. Nick says:

    Hopefully broadcasters won’t try to force people to connect their TVs to the internet. It will be interesting on how it turns out.

    I do think the concerns of OTA TV becoming pay walled are a bit overblown as I doubt much of the OTA crowd would be willing to start paying a monthly fee on what was previously free.

    Time will tell.

  3. Ken says:

    Two comments to a rather terse bit that should have been expanded upon:
    “promises better, more robust reception, with error correction and the capability of downgrading video quality in marginal reception areas”

    1) Like this is a new idea — it SHOULD have been part of ATSC 1.0!
    and
    2) It “promises”. ATSC 1.0 ‘promised’ superior quality HD at lower power levels too. How did THAT work out?

    I’m hopeful, but I’ll believe it when I see it. And are there any ATSC 3.0 converter boxes out there for consumers yet?

    • Lou says:

      ATSC 1.0 was as good as was possible with mid-90s technology. Two decades later, things have improved a bit, although not as much as we’re led to believe. Broadcasters may start with 4k streams, but they stand to make more money by lowering video quality and squeezing more channels in. That’s the real motivation for the FCC ramming this through… they’re addicted to auctioning off TV spectrum to cellular companies for big bucks, and hope to do it again in a few years.







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