When US broadcast TV switched from analog to digital in 2009, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) provided the digital TV standard known as ATSC 1.0. The standard was originally developed in 1996. Since then, there were a few updates and improvements to ATSC 1.0. There was an ATSC 2.0 standard that was obsoleted while being developed and thus never launched. This brings us to now where ATSC 3.0, under the branding “Next Gen TV” is finalized and is currently being rolled out on a voluntary basis. In this article, I’ll cover what you need to know and how to prepare for ATSC 3.0.
What Is ATSC 3.0
ATSC 3.0, also known as NextGen TV and Next Gen TV, is the latest digital broadcast standard governing the air TV signal. The new ATSC 3.0 standards offer many improvements over the old standard, including support for 2160p 4K resolution at a rate of 120 frames per second, wide color gamut, high dynamic range, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X audio support, on-demand video, and mobile television support. These features are a considerable improvement of the current ATSC 1.0 standard that caps video resolution at 1080p HD at 60 frames per second, supporting Dolby Digital audio. In Addition, the ATSC 3.0 standard leverages Internet Protocol (IP) merging OTA and Internet TV capabilites. This will allow the OTA signal to carry relevant show and movie information found on the web. However, this also opens up the potential for targeted TV advertising.
Like the switch from analog to digital, you will not need a new TV antenna to watch TV broadcast on an ATSC 3.0 signal. In fact, the phrase “digital TV antenna” is really a marketing term. An antenna will receive analog and digital signals just fine. That 50-year-old antenna on grandma’s roof will pull in the ATSC 3.0 TV signal. However, to interpret that signal, you will need either a TV with an ATSC 3.0 TV tuner or an ATSC 3.0 digital converter box. However, there isn’t a rush to upgrade. While many TV markets are currently broadcasting an ATSC 3.0, stations are required by the FCC to broadcast their ATSC 1.0 signal in a similar capacity until March 2023. Furthermore, stations can decide to continue broadcasting their ATSC 1.0 signal past that date.
How To Watch ATSC 3.0 TV
While quite a few markets are broadcasting with the ATSC 3.0 standard, currently, early adopters will see little to no improvement over the ATSC 1.0 standard. Even though the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) utilize ATSC 3.0 broadcasts in various markets, none are currently committed to broadcasting content utilizing newer ATSC 3.0 features. This means you will see little to no 4K broadcasts if you upgrade now.
Still, if you want to be on the bleeding edge of over-the-air TV, then you will need a TV antenna and an ATSC 3.0 turner. Any TV antenna will work regardless of the year it was made. As I said, the erector set on grandma’s house from the 1950s will receive a digital signal broadcast on the ATSC 3.0 standard. What you will need is a tuner to decode that signal. Sony, Samsung, LG are manufacturing TVs supporting the NextGen TV ATSC 3.0 standard with built-in ATSC 3.0 tuners. If you don’t want a new TV, you could get an external tuner like the HD Homerun Flex. However, I would advise against running out and buying a new TV or external tuner right now. The cost of this upgrade is too much, with little benefit to be realized at the moment.
Where Is ATSC 3.0 Broadcasting
As of June 2021, ATSC 3.0 is broadcasting in 32 markets across the US. However, 4K broadcasts hav been virtually non existent outside a few sporting events on an experimental basis.
- Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM: KNMD PBS 9 | KNME PBS 5
- Austin, TX: KTBC_(TV) Fox 7 | KBVO-CD MyNetworkTV 14 | KTFO-CD UniMas 31 | KXAN NBC 36 | KEYE-TV CBS 42 | KNVA CW 54 | KAKW Univision 62
- Baltimore, MD: WNUV CW 54 | WMPT PBS 22 | WBAL-TV NBC/MeTV 11 | WBFF Fox 45 | WMAR-TV ABC 2
- Boise, ID: KBSE-LD EVOCA 33 | KEVA-LD EVOCA 34
- Buffalo, NY: WGRZ NBC 2 | WIVB CBS 4 | WKBW-TV ABC 7 | WUTV FOX 29 | WNYO-TV MyNetworkTV 49 | WNLO_(TV) CW 23
- Charlotte, NC: WAXN IND 64 | WBTV CBS 3 | WJZY FOX 46 | WSOC-TV ABC/Telemundo 9
- Columbus, OH: WCMH-TV NBC 4 | WSYX ABC/FOX 6 | WTTE TBD 28 | WWHO CW 53
- Dallas-Fort Worth, TX: KDFW FOX 4 | KUVN UNIVISION 23 | KSTR-DT UNIVISION 49
- Denver, CO: KWGN CW 2 | KMGH ABC 7 | KUSA NBC 9 | KDVR FOX 31
- Detroit, MI: WJBK FOX 2 | WDIV NBC 4 | WXYZ-TV ABC 7 | WMYD MyNetworkTV 20 | WWJ-TV CBS 62
- Grand Rapids, MI/Kalamazoo, MI: WWMT CBS 3 | WOTV ABC 41 | WOOD-TV NBC 8 | WXSP MyNetworkTV 15 | WXMI FOX 17
- Greenville, NC: WUNK-TV PBS 25
- Las Vegas, NV: KSNV NBC 3 | KLAS-TV CBS 8 | KTNV ABC 13 | KVCW CW/MyNetworkTV 33
- Little Rock/Pine Bluff, AR: KARZ-TV MyNetworkTV/BOUNCE/ION 42 | KLRT FOX 16 | KARK NBC 4 | KATV ABC 7 (JUNE 30, 2021 10 A.M. CDT)
- Mobile, AL/Pensacola, FL: WEAR-TV ABC 3 | WKRG CBS 5 | WPMI NBC 15 | WFGX 35 | WJTC UTV 44 | WFNA_(TV) CW 55
- Nashville, TN: WKRN ABC 2 | WTVF CBS 5 | WZTV FOX 17 | WUXP MyNetworkTV 30 | WNAB CW 58
- Norfolk/Newport News/Portsmouth/Virginia Beach, VA: WAVY NBC 10 | WTVZ MyNetworkTV 33 | WVBT FOX 43 | WNLO-CD FOX 14
- Oklahoma City, OK: KFOR-TV NBC 4 | KOCO ABC 5 | KOKH FOX 25 | KOCB CW 34 | KAUT IND 43
- Orlando, FL: WESH NBC/ME-TV 2 | WKCF CW, ESTRELLA, JUSTICE NETWORK 18 | WRBW MyNetworkTV/FOX 65 | WOFL FOX 35 | WRDQ IND, Antenna, CourtTV, Grit 27 | WFTV ABC, Laff, Court TV Mystery 9
- Phoenix, AZ: KPHO CBS 5 | KAET PBS 8 | KSAZ-TV FOX 10 | KPNX NBC 12 | KFPH UNIVISION 13 | KNXV ABC 15 | KUTP FOX 45 | KASW CW 61 | KTVW UNIVISION 33 | KTVK 3.1 (Independent), 3.2 (Comet), 3.3 (Circle), 3.4 (This TV), 3.5 (Weather Now) 3
- Pittsburgh, PA: WTAE-TV ABC 4 | WPNT MyNetworkTV 22 | WPGH-TV FOX 53
- Portland, OR: KATU ABC 2 | KOIN CBS 6 | KGW NBC 8 | KOPB-TV PBS 10 | KPTV FOX 12 | KRCW-TV CW 32 | KPDX MyNetworkTV 49
- Raleigh-Durham, NC: WUNC-TV PBS 4 | WRAL-TV NBC 5 | WTVD ABC 11 | WNCN CBS 17 | WLFL CW 22 | WRDC MyNetworkTV 28 | WUVC UNIVISION 40 | WRAZ_(TV) FOX 50 | WARZ-CD Retro TV 34
- Sacramento/Stockton, CA: KQCA MyNetworkTV 58 | KCRA-TV NBC 3 | KUVS-DT UNIVISION 19 | KTXL FOX 40 | KXTV ABC 10 | KOVR CBS 13
- Salt Lake City, UT: KUTV CBS 2 | KTVX ABC 4 | KJZZ-TV 14 | KUCW CW 30
- Santa Barbara, CA: KSBB-CD MyNetworkTV 17
- Seattle, WA: KOMO-TV ABC 4 | KING-TV NBC 5 | KIRO-TV CBS 7 | KCPQ FOX 13 | KONG_(TV) IND 16 | KZJO MyNetworkTV 22 | KUNS UNIVISION 51
- Springfield, MA: WWLP NBC 22 | WFXQ-CD CW 28
- St. Petersburg/Tampa, FL: WFLA-TV NBC 8 | WTSP CBS 10 | WTVT FOX 13 | WFTS ABC 28 | WMOR-TV 32
- Syracuse, NY: WSTM-TV NBC 3 | WTVH CBS 5 | WSYR-TV ABC 9
- Tallahassee, FL/Thomasville, GA: WCTV CBS 6 | All Tallahassee ATSC 3.0 stations are broadcast on WCTV’s WNXG-LD | (CBS) channel 6.1 | (MeTV) channel 6.2 | (Circle) channel 6.3 | (ION) channel 6.4 | (Justice) channel 6.5 | (MyTV) channel 6.6
- Washington, D.C.: WIAV-CD TBD 10 | WJLA-TV ABC 7
Do You Need ATSC 3.0 TV
At the moment, No. You do not need to rush out to buy a new TV or turner with the ATSC 3.0 standard. This is the case even if you live in a TV market broadcasting a signal with the ATSC 3.0 standard. You won’t realize much of a benefit over the current ATSC 1.0 standard. Now, if you are in the market for a new TV anyway, by all means, pick up a TV with the “NextGen TV” branding. Otherwise, I would wait until we are a bit closer to that March 2023 date when broadcasters are no longer required to broadcast the older ATSC 1.0 standard. However, with no mandatory shutoff date of the old standard, those broadcasters may continue broadcasting the legacy standard long past that deadline.
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