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What Is ATSC 3.0 Over-the-Air TV? We Explain

This past week the National Association of Broadcasters trade show was held, and you likely saw a ton of news about ATSC 3.0 over-the-air TV. That may have left you wondering what is it and should I care? So we thought we would take a minute and go over the basics.

What is ATSC?

ATSC stands for the Advanced Television Systems Committee. This is the group that works in partnership with TV stations owners, National Association of Broadcasters, and manufacturers to come up with broadcast TV standards. These standards mean the TV you buy will work with all over-the-air TV stations.

The committee has been around for some time and the current over-the-air TV standard is called ATSC 1.0, but no one really uses that name outside of the industry. Typically we just call it over-the-air TV. Now, though, the committee is working on ATSC 3.0 as a new over-the-air TV standard.

What happened to ATSC 2.0?

You may be wondering if we are on ATSC 1.0 today and are moving to ATSC 3.0, what happened to ATSC 2.0? In short, the standard was made and it included many great new features such as interactive content, video on demand, and advanced video compression. Yet after it was created 4K and later 4K HDR became very popular. It was decided that the industry would rather not spend money today to bring ATSC 2.0 into reality just to roll out ATSC 3.0 with 4K HDR support a few years later.

So the decision was made to skip ATSC 2.0 and dive right into ATSC 3.0 with 4K HDR support among other benefits.

So what is ATSC 3.0?

ATSC 3.0 is a new standard that will bring a long list of new features to over-the-air TV. Two main features that will really excite cord cutters are 4K HDR picture with better sound and better over-the-air TV coverage.

There are other great features such as detailed custom weather alerts, internet active news stories, and more.

There are many rumors around ATSC 3.0 and we wanted to break them down.

Rumor: You Will Need a New Antenna

No you will not need a new antenna. An antenna is a dumb device that picks up all signals out there: FM, AM, TV, etc. The chips in your TV decode the signals and display the images. Just like how a 40-year-old antenna in your attic still works with the new digital TV, today’s antennas will work with 3.0 TV.

Rumor: You Will Need Internet to Use 3.0 OTA

No you do not need internet to use 3.0 OTA TV. The new 3.0 OTA does have some similarities to home internet in the way it transmits data, but it is not internet and you do not need internet.

Your 3.0-compatible TV or tuner box will have everything it needs for you to watch OTA TV without the need for home internet. So even without internet you can enjoy everything you get with your antenna now and more.

Could 3.0 use the internet? Yes, if you set it up 3.0 could use the internet to access additional content. For example, clicking on an ad could open up a web browser for you to buy the product.

Yet you will not need an internet connection to watch 3.0 OTA TV. Also many new features like on-demand video and custom weather alerts do not need an internet connection.

Rumor: 3.0 OTA TV Can Turn on Your TV

This one is partly true. 3.0 OTA TV does have the ability to turn your TV into a weather radio. If you set 3.0 OTA up for weather alerts, you can use your TV as a weather radio to receive weather alerts. This is an opt-in feature that will work just like weather radios do now, but it will be more accurate.

If you turn on the alerts feature instead of getting alerts to full counties, the new 3.0 OTA TV standard can send weather alters to specific areas (or one town) that are (is) being affected (think tornados, hurricanes).

This works because of the ability to use GPS location with a weather alert system for far more accurate alerts.

Rumor: 3.0 OTA TV Will Have Annoying Custom Ads

This one is partly true because 3.0 OTA TV will allow for area-specific ads. Just like with the weather radio, TV stations can target ads to a town. Now you will just see ads from your town or area.

Sling TV and YouTube TV already use targeted ads. This helps them keep their prices low to offer more content. The same will be true with 3.0 OTA TV. Advertisers can buy ads only for the areas they want the ad to be seen in. They no longer need to buy ads for a massive area.

This will save advertisers money and help TV stations make more money to expand their OTA content.

Rumor: You Will Need a New TV

This one is not true. The FCC requires TV stations that move to 3.0 OTA to offer the current OTA standard for five years after the move. That means if a station moves to 3.0 OTA TV next year, the day they turn on 3.0 OTA the clock starts for five years to still offer the current standard.

LG is already selling TVs in South Korea with 3.0 TV tuners. South Korea has had 3.0 for some time, and LG is adding the new 3.0 TV tuners to TVs they sell in the United States next year.

If you don’t want to buy a new TV you won’t have to to enjoy 3.0 OTA TV. Several companies say they will have dongles or set-top boxes for sale soon that will let you connect your antenna to the box and the box to your HDMI port on your TV.

With that said we are looking at six to seven years before anyone is forced to upgrade their TVs or devices.

Rumor 3.0 Tracks What You Watch

This rumor is true. Cable TV also tracks what you watch for ratings. With the current standard, companies tried to do surveys, but there is no good way to track OTA viewership.

Now 3.0 OTA TV will report back what you are watching, which will help keep your favorite shows on the air. Most OTA services, such as DIRECTV NOW, and almost all cable networks, do this.

Most services allow you to opt out of tracking, and I would assume that 3.0 OTA would be the same.

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