FCC Adopts ATSC 3.0 Multicast Licensing Rules

The FCC has adopted its proposed changes to the Next Generation TV rules (Next Gen or ATSC 3.0) that will allow Next Gen TV/ATSC 3.0 stations to seek modification of their licenses to include certain of their non-primary video programming streams (multicast streams) that are aired on “host” stations during a transitional period. The FCC generally adopted its 2021 proposals, is extending the sunset dates of the “substantially similar” and ATSC A/322 standard compliance requirements, and is asking for comment on the current marketplace for ATSC 3.0 Standard Essential Patents (SEPs). Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, and reply comments will be due 90 days after publication.

Specifically, the FCC adopted the following:

Licensing of Multicast Streams

    • Next Gen TV stations may seek to modify their licenses to include one or more simulcast multicast streams on a host station or stations, if that guest stream is “substantially similar” in either ATSC 1.0 or ATSC 3.0 formats.
    • Next Gen TV stations that are broadcasting in ATSC 3.0 on their own channel may seek to modify their licenses to include one or more multicast streams aired only in ATSC 1.0 format on a host stations or stations even if they are not simulcasting that stream in ATSC 3.0.
    • The number of ATSC 1.0 guest streams that may be included in the license of a single Next Gen TV station is limited to those which it would have the capacity to transmit over its own facility in ATSC 1.0.
    • In certain circumstances, a Next Gen TV station will be allowed to simulcast the station’s primary stream programming on both its primary stream host and a multicast stream carried by a different partner station in order to lessen the impact of 1.0 primary service loss to viewers that would result if the originating station were only able to air its primary stream on a single host.
    • The “ownership waiver” as it applies in the primary stream context is extended to ensure that hosted multicast streams do not implicate the broadcaster attribution rules, but any changes to the FCC’s multicast stream rules – including any changes adopted in the ongoing ownership proceeding – will apply equally to hosted multicast streams.

These multicast licensing rules will apply until the FCC eliminates the mandatory local simulcasting requirement.

The FCC declined to allow licensing of ATSC 3.0 non-simulcast multicast streams (aired as guest streams on a 3.0 host station) and declined to license same service or lateral hosting arrangements.


The FCC extended the sunset date of two requirements – the “substantially similar” rule and the ATSC A/322 requirement – to July 17, 2027. Under the substantially similar rule, Next Gen TV stations’ ATSC 1.0 simulcast programming must be “substantially similar” to that of the primary video programming stream on the ATSC 3.0 channel, meaning that the programming must be the same except for features based on the enhanced capabilities of ATSC 3.0 and promotions for upcoming programs. The A/322 requirement refers to the A/322:2016 “Physical Layer Protocol” that defines the waveforms that ATSC 3.0 signals may take. The FCC will initiate a review approximately one year before the requirements are set to expire to seek comment on whether they should be extended.

Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The FCC is asking for comment on the current marketplace for ATSC 3.0 SEPs and the ability of third parties to develop products that rely on them. The FCC will further develop the record previously assembled in 2022. The FCC is specifically asking:

    • Whether SEP holders are complying with the ATSC’s “reasonable and non-discriminatory,” or RAND, patent licensing requirements.
    • Whether the FCC has the authority to impose RAND requirements on ATSC 3.0 patent licenses.
    • If the FCC were to discover problems in the SEP marketplace that could be improved by applying RAND requirements, how it should craft rules to minimize the potential adverse impact and maximize opportunities for participation in the ATSC market.
    • Whether there are any other issues the FCC should consider with respect to the possible application of RAND rules to the licensing of SEPs.

If you have questions about the ATSC 3.0 rules or would like to file comments in the proceeding, please contact an attorney in our Media practice group.

Categories: Media