With ATSC 2.0, Broadcasting Gets Facelift

Work on new standard could herald radical changes in the industry

As broadcasters struggle to find
new ways of growing their relatively
stagnant core businesses, the
Advanced Television Systems Committee is
working on several groundbreaking standards
that could have a dramatic impact on both
the traditional broadcast business and the
way these broadcasters use their spectrum.

The most immediate, major development
is ATSC 2.0, which is expected to become a
candidate standard sometime in late 2011 or
early 2012, with final adoption as a standard
in 2012.

The shift would allow broadcasters to deliver
a plethora of new services, including nonreal-
time content that would permit viewers
to access news, weather and other content on
demand; new interactive services to enhance
live broadcasts; personalized advertising systems
for ads targeted to a viewer’s location
or interests; the use of MPEG 4 compression
systems that would let broadcasters do more
with their existing spectrum; advanced programming
guides to make it easier to find
content; and conditional access that would
allow broadcasters to launch subscription or
pay-per-view TV services; to name a few of
its major features.

The standard move could spell a major
change for the traditional broadcast business,
which has long focused on linear, free

“In broadcasting we have traditionally
done everything in real time, even though
most of the programming doesn’t happen
in real time,” says Mark Richer, president
of the ATSC. “Non-real-time delivery allows
broadcasters to provide a whole new array
of services, such as constantly updated news
stories and so forth. It allows people to get
content when and where they want it.”

Another huge plus is that despite the radical
changes in the types of services ATSC 2.0
will deliver, the standard is designed to be
backwardly compatible, meaning the new capability
can be added to existing infrastructure
without disrupting current broadcasts.
It also includes some features that are part
of the mobile digital TV standard and is very
much designed to complement ATSC’s work
on delivering broadcast content to a wide array
of mobile devices.

But the focus of ATSC 2.0 is fixed TV receivers,
and a number of its key features
will help broadcasters capitalize on
the growing popularity of TVs that
are connected to the Internet.

For starters, the standard assumes
that new television sets that
comply with ATSC 2.0 will include
some storage, allowing stations to
push out content, such as news
stories or weather alerts that would
be received and stored on the set,
for viewers to access the content on

In addition, ATSC 2.0 will enable
“triggered downloadable objects.”
These act as a kind of widget for
viewers to interact with broadcast feeds, providing
them with additional information on
the players in a game, or even letting them
vote on reality shows.

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