In February this year, the FCC announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NRPM) on a new broadcast standard, ATSC 3.0. This puts into motion the process for adopting new regulations, allowing for public comment on the proposed rules before any rule-making is finalized. (See FCC Issues Proposal to Authorize ATSC 3.0 Use.)
It was an important event for the US TV industry because ATSC 3.0 could allow broadcasters to offer new, innovative services independent of broadband connections. But we are at an early stage in the transition, and we wondered how quickly adoption will move forward. (See FCC Moves Forward With New Broadcast Standard and Wheeler Pushing Hard on ATSC, Auction.)
A new survey of the broadcast industry commissioned by broadcast advertising technology company WideOrbit provides useful insight into US broadcasters and their attitudes towards ATSC 3.0.
Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed that ATSC 3.0 was an exciting technology, with more than half reporting their station group is actively evaluating adoption. However, knowledge among respondents was limited, with 24% saying they had not heard of ATSC 3.0 (these respondents were eliminated from the rest of the survey).
Knowledge levels among the rest varied, with just 22% stating they were well educated about the proposed technology standard.
Most respondents believed adoption was at least a year away, with 39% saying they didn't know when ATSC 3.0 would be deployed by their business or were still evaluating its relevance. More than half of those who agreed to guess a timeline for adoption predicted it would start in 2018 or later.
The enthusiasm for the ATSC 3.0 largely stems from the potential for new revenue, primarily driven by new advertising revenue: increased ad inventory, cross-platform campaigns and better targeting and attribution capabilities. More than half of the respondents were also enthused about the potential for reaching audiences on new platforms.
The greatest challenge is likely to be the cost of new technology deployment, with 66% selecting it. This is followed quite closely by a concern about consumer adoption, with 57% selecting that option. Since the FCC has (at least for now) chosen to make the transition to ATSC 3.0 voluntary, broadcasters are concerned about penetration of compatible devices and their ability to actually reach consumers with these newer services.
There is also little clarity on costs, though they were seen as considerable. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed felt that it would cost each TV station more than $250,000 to upgrade, and another 25% believe it will cost over $1 million. In its analysis WideOrbit did cite a recent study from BIA/Kelsey that estimated most stations can expect to recoup ATSC 3.0-related costs in three years, but most respondents were not aware of it.
According to respondents, key technologies that will require upgrades include master control/encoders, traffic systems (ad ingest, air, track, invoice), production hardware and/or software, broadcast towers, playout, CRM databases and financial systems, amongst others.
A lot of the anticipated systems upgrades are to support new revenue-generating advertising formats though. More than a third expect video software (41%) and sales expertise (34%) will be required to sell ads in a more “digital” style. And new tools like audience CRM systems (37%) and Data Management Platforms (33%) will be required for more targeted, data-driven advertising.
The survey was conducted in January 2017. Respondents included broadcast industry sales, traffic and engineering professionals. More than two-thirds reported that their primary roles were executive management or sales, with the remainder coming from broadcast engineering, technology and other areas. Just over half were employed by groups of more than 11 stations, while a third worked with smaller groups with only a handful of stations.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation