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Connected Homes July 2020 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: David Strachan-Olson

Next-Generation TV Broadcasts

Why is this topic significant?

Broadcasters in the United States and elsewhere are adopting new digital-television standards rapidly. The new standards will improve video quality and enable new capabilities, yet broadcasters may continue to struggle against the growing popularity of streaming video.

Description

Stakeholders continue to make progress on next-generation TV broadcasting using the Advanced Television Systems Committee standard ATSC 3.0. Several broadcasters in various US cities—including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; and Dallas, Texas—have begun broadcasting using the standard. Companies plan to bring the standard to 60 US markets by the end of 2020. TV manufacturers—including LG, Sony, and Samsung—have announced that TVs with built-in ATSC 3.0 tuners will arrive in 2020. Companies are also developing set-top boxes to receive and decode the new signals for older televisions.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is continuing to resolve various issues concerning ATSC 3.0. The FCC is requiring that broadcasters that switch to ATSC 3.0 continue to broadcast—or that a partner station broadcast—the same transmissions using ATSC 1.0 technologies (simulcasts) for at least five years unless they receive a waiver from the FCC. The FCC also decided that broadcast-TV licensees will be allowed to lease spectrum to another broadcaster or to a third party for supplementary service without triggering the FCC's ownership rules. This ruling could support future "one-to-many" internet-protocol services that leverage ATSC 3.0 technology and broadcasting stations. In a less-favorable ruling for broadcasters, the FCC decided that broadcasters cannot use vacant in-band channels (white spaces) during the ATSC 1.0 to ATSC 3.0 transition for simulcast. Instead, the FCC will allow companies developing fixed-wireless broadband services for homes, such as Microsoft's Airband initiative, to use the bands.

Implications

ATSC 3.0 represents a major redesign of the ATSC 1.0 standard. (The committee abandoned its effort to standardize ATSC 2.0.) Most significant, the new standard relies on data packets that can consist of any type of information, as long as the data do not exceed the capacity of the broadcast channel. As a result, ATSC 3.0 enables new interactive capabilities well beyond video broadcasting.

ATSC 3.0 also supports ultra-high-definition video (up to 8K resolution), high dynamic range, advanced three-dimensional audio, downloadable applications written in HTML5, digital rights management, and targeted advertising and emergency alerts. The deployment of ATSC 3.0 broadcasts and the production of ATSC 3.0 receiver hardware will allow the transition to ATSC 3.0 to begin in earnest. However, with ATSC 1.0 remaining available in most markets for five years, stakeholders will likely face an uphill battle in convincing households to switch to new devices.

Impacts/Disruptions

The world of digital entertainment has changed significantly since the development of the original ATSC standard in the early 1990s. For years, ATSC broadcasters have faced challenges from pay-TV providers (in particular, cable and satellite systems) that offer hundreds of channels and over-the-top services such as on-demand video. Now, internet-based video streaming is growing in popularity, challenging both ATSC broadcasters and pay-TV providers. In addition, advertising markets have changed with the advent of targeted digital ads online. ATSC 3.0, with its high-quality broadcasts and new features, could tempt pay-TV subscribers, and targeted advertising could help broadcasters generate increased advertising revenue. Nevertheless, broadcasters will likely continue to struggle to compete against the growing influence of streaming providers and demand for nonlinear media.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Over-the-air broadcasting, multichannel pay-TV services, streaming services, TV manufacturing, receiver hardware, mobile communications services, fixed broadband services, video-network equipment

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Sunset for MPEG

By Michael Gold
Gold is a senior research engineer with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

A new intellectual-property licensor will offer a state-of-the-art video-compression standard: Versatile Video Coding. But organizations that use digital-video technologies might find that the licenses are unmanageable.

Description

Disagreements about intellectual property and governance led the International Standards Organization (ISO) to disband the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) committee during June 2020. The former MPEG subcommittees now report to another group within the ISO that a Microsoft employee heads.

During early July 2020, the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) announced the introduction of Versatile Video Coding (VVC) standard for data compression and decompression, which the ISO designates as H.266. The MPEG committee developed the standard with contributions from HHI as well as Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sony, and many others. HHI indicates that H.266 will provide "efficient transmission and storage of all video resolutions from SD to HD up to 4K and 8K, while supporting high dynamic range video and omnidirectional 360° video." The standard likely has the capability to support streaming media, broadcasting, video discs, and any other means of distributing video that might emerge in the next five years.

The Media Coding Industry Forum (MC-IF) represents patent holders that will reportedly offer "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" licensing terms for use of VVC. But Leonardo Chiariglione, who led the MPEG committee from its founding in 1988 until recently, stated that "MC-IF has 31 members, 7 of which are licensing entities (i.e. a little less than ¼ of all members)." Organizations that use VVC will apparently need agreements that satisfy at least eight intellectual-property licensors that do not develop video technologies themselves.

Dr. Chiariglione also stated that "globally, the annual value of products and services that rely on MPEG standards is ~1.5 trillion USD, or ~2% of the world gross product." Two-thirds of the revenue is for chips and other hardware, and the remainder is for video services. During some years, intellectual-property revenue generated roughly $1 billion per year for the members of the MPEG Licensing Authority, which is among the leading consortia of patent holders that contributed to video-compression standards.

Implications

Dr. Chiariglione has described a possible road map for implementers of best-of-breed video-compression technologies. But complex licenses that patent owners require could block the road. Moreover, inventors will not receive compensation if licensing challenges deter software developers, chip makers, video producers, and video services from adopting new standards. In coming years, organizations that develop innovative algorithms could scale back research and development for the next generation of video-compression-technology improvements.

Today, browsers for fixed and mobile devices have varying compatibility with MPEG standards. Watch for additional inconsistencies to arise as new video standards see commercialization. A Brightcove official expressed hopes for a favorable outcome but also indicated that perverse incentives ultimately defeated Dr. Chiariglione's decades-long effort to prevent a video "format war."

Impacts/Disruptions

Major differences could arise among encoding and decoding chips and software for broadcasting, streaming media, and video discs. Watch for increased costs for intellectual property and increased bureaucratic overhead for using the property. Also watch for new platforms that have fully artificial barriers to playing back various video formats (as distinct from legitimate technical obstacles such as lack of adequate memory resources or number-crunching capabilities). In an unfavorable case, long-format videos in 8K resolution might have both unmanageable file sizes as well as noticeable artifacts that annoy home-video enthusiasts.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 15 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Broadcasting, streaming services, pay-TV services, videoconferencing, video discs, media-production equipment, electronic components, consumer-electronics manufacturing, computer peripherals

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: