Four Reasons NextGen TV Hasn’t Taken Off and Four Moves that Could Help

ATSC3.0 / NextGen TV has been around for a few years now and more than 3/4 of the US population has access to at least one over-the-air (OTA) NextGen TV signal (link). However, to date there are few receivers (devices or TVs) and very little consumer interest in the new standard. With the NAB and FCC teaming up to drive adoption (news link here), we should ask ourselves why has NextGen TV had such a slow start and what moves could help accelerate the process. 

First, what’s blocking the progress?

  1. First and foremost, most (but not all) broadcasters are afraid to fully promote antenna usage. Commercial broadcasters generate a good deal of revenue from cable/satellite/vMVPD re-transmissions fees. Although the number of these subscribers is declining, most broadcasters don’t want to do anything that would accelerate that decline. 
  2. Going hand-in-hand with #1 above, is the fact that there is (so far) no re-distribution of NextGen TV signals via cable/satellite or vMVPDs. This essentially means there is no value for the significant numbers of viewers who continue to get the majority of their TV via these providers. 
  3. Antennas are not well understood by the viewing public. Since cable covered the U.S. in the 1980’s most Americans haven’t been exposed to antenna TV. Older Americans assume that antenna TV will have the quality and reliability of NTSC broadcasts from 1970’s while the younger generations don’t understand the antenna and some actually question whether it is even legal. 
  4. Marginal quality improvements don’t sell most Americans. While NextGen TV can provide higher quality picture and sound, that’s not enough to drive consumer adoption to more than a small percentage of consumers. Remember that HDTV (ATSC1) came with new widescreen TV and formats driving consumers to fill the screen and get rid of the dreaded black bars. NextGen TV doesn’t have that consumer driver.

So, what could the industry be doing to drive consumer demand and accelerate the transition?

  • First and foremost on this side is to provide some original or differentiated content. Let’s not forget that TV is all about content. If the customers can access some content that they otherwise couldn’t, that would be a big driver. Just imagine the lines outside of consumer electronics stores if NextGen TV provided access to an additional NFL game every Sunday. 
  • The item above might require some relaxation or sunsetting of the simulcast rules. While these rules were put in place to protect existing consumers from losing access to their existing content, the unintended consequence seems to be that the rules are prohibiting the use of differentiated content to drive consumer demand.  
  • While (as noted above) quality won’t solve the entire problem, providing some noticeable enhanced quality programming could certainly drive some interest. Sports in 4K or even in High Dynamic Range color (as was demoed in the NextGen TV booth at NAB ‘23) would start the conversation. Some of us remember the excitement when it was announced that the “Tonight Show” would be the first regular network programming in HD.
  • As I’ve written about in the past (and was proven functional by Evoca TV), NextGen TV has the capability to provide both free TV and pay services on the same broadcast carrier. This means that an option for new content would be premium channels or programming. Time and time again consumers have shown their willingness to adopt new technology to get access to premium content. This could get the ball rolling for NextGen TV as well. My personal pick for this kind of content would be the evolution of the Regional Sports Network (RSN) with both free and “behind the fire-wall” sports content, but other options exist as well. 

With the FCC and NAB teaming up to promote the transition, now is the time to make the right moves to get the NextGen ball rolling. 


About mitchdbs
Mitch is a leader in the cable TV, satellite and new media space. He has over 20 years of experience with Evoca-TV, Sling, Dish Network, Insight Communications, Comcast and Primestar. Any opinions expressed on TV Topics are those of Mitch personally and do not represent the plans, opinions or policies any organization or employer.

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