The Federal Communications Commission has released a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the transition to the Next Generation Television (“Next Gen TV” or “ATSC 3.0”) standard. The FCC is seeking comments on the progress of television broadcasters’ voluntary, market-driven deployment of ATSC 3.0 service, the current state of the ATSC 3.0 marketplace, and whether two ATSC 3.0 requirements scheduled to sunset on June 17, 2023 should be extended. Comments will be due 30 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.
Next Gen TV/ATSC 3.0 is the newest broadcast TV transmission standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC). Next Gen TV/ATSC 3.0 will allow delivery of traditional over-the-air broadcasting content via Internet-Protocol, using the same 6 MHz channels currently allocated for DTV service. The transition to ATSC 3.0 will enable broadcasters to deliver an array of new video and non-video services and enhanced content features to consumers. Television broadcasters in at least 68 markets have voluntarily converted to the new service.
The FCC is specifically seeking comments on three items. First, the FCC seeks information about the state of the ATSC 3.0 marketplace, including information and data on broadcasters’ current deployment of ATSC 3.0 service, the availability and pricing of ASTC 3.0 consumer television equipment, the number of over-the-air television viewers currently watching ATSC 3.0 broadcasts, whether any Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) are currently carrying or are planning to carry ATSC 3.0 signals, and how the marketplace is handling patent royalties for essential patents in ATSC 3.0 technology.
Second, the Commission seeks comments on whether to retain or sunset the “substantially similar” requirement. Because television sets capable of receiving 3.0 signals are not widely available, to ensure that viewers are able to continue to receive stations’ programming the FCC requires all stations that convert to 3.0 to simulcast their primary stream in 1.0. As part of this mandate, the FCC requires all programming simulcast on a Next Gen TV station’s ATSC 1.0 channel to be “substantially similar,” which effectively means that the 1.0 and 3.0 signals must contain all of the same programming except any enhancements only available in 3.0. The NPRM explains that the requirement that broadcasters simulcast in both ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 will remain in effect, but the “substantially similar” requirement is scheduled to sunset in June 2023. It seeks comments on whether, based on the state of the ATSC 3.0 conversion and the consumer equipment market, this requirement should be extended.
Finally, the FCC asks for input on whether to retain or sunset the requirement that Next Gen TV broadcasters’ primary video programming stream comply with the ATSC A/322 standard. The ATSC A/322 standard is a technical standard for the formatting of a television station’s broadcast signal, intended to provide certainty to consumers, television receiver manufacturers, and MVPDs that ATSC 3.0 TV sets and equipment will be able to receive all ATSC 3.0 primary broadcast signals.
If you have questions about the NPRM or Next Gen/ATSC 3.0 in general , or would like to file comments, please contact an attorney in our Media practice group.