First ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Airs in Vegas: On-Demand 4K Shows Over Antenna TV

Time to ditch the Roku?

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A new broadcasting standard is on the way that could bring Roku-style features to TVs – all without the need for a box. On-demand video, 4K resolution, and ultra-high quality sound may soon be coming to both local and national broadcasters thanks to a new version of the ATSC standard used for transmitting digital television over-the-air.

“Quite simply, it’s the future of broadcasting,” Mark Richer, president of ATSC, told Broadcasting & Cable. The first 4K and HDR-ready ATSC 3.0 broadcast was sent and received during a demonstration Monday at the NAB 2016 show in Las Vegas.

ATSC is used today in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, and South Korea. This new version, however, is radically different. It’s what LG describes as the world’s first broadcast system based on the internet protocol, or IP for short. That makes services possible that were previously restricted to internet connected devices like set top boxes.

“Imagine what happens the day that an individual goes on Amazon, a drone drops the set off on the porch,” said Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology at the Sinclair Broadcast Group, at a dinner attended by TVNewsCheck. “He takes the television set out of the package, he plugs it into the outlet and they have broadcast television.”

Not just any sort of broadcast television, though. ATSC 3.0 makes possible the levels of service that consumers are used to getting through set-top boxes. Instead of having to worry about hooking up an HDMI cable to the right box to get the right services, people will be able to access premium services like on-demand streaming without having to configure any extra boxes.

“At NAB, we are thrilled to showcase a potential vision for the future where shows can be downloaded overnight and stored locally, giving viewers an enormous amount of content immediately available on their television,” John Godfrey, senior VP of public policy for Samsung Electronics America, told Broadcasting & Cable.

It may be a while before ATSC 3.0 sees the light of day, though. A petition is making the rounds to get the FCC to approve the new transmissions for U.S. broadcast. After that, manufacturers will have to support the standard, so it could be a long time coming.

Korean broadcaster KBS expects the first ATSC 3.0 transmissions to go live in Korea by February 2017. By that time, boxes like the Apple TV and Roku may have even more broadcast features that makes ATSC 3.0 seem outdated. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting development that could bring a wide range of new features to consumers uninterested in fiddling about with cables and boxes.

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