Why your new TV may soon be worthless

If the TV industry has its way, that new TV you just bought will be worthless soon.

At a session of the National Association or Broadcasters event today, CEO Gordon Smith urged TV broadcasters to put up a unified fight for a new TV broadcast standard, called ATSC 3.0. It uses Internet and cellular systems for TV transmission instead of antennas on tall towers.

This week, the Sinclair broadcast group announced creation of a political action committee to help influence lawmakers to adopt the standard, which will cater to immersive audio, interactivity, multiscreen viewing, mobile devices and hybrid services.

“Broadcast television depends on mass market deployment. When consumers buy a TV at a retail store, they should be able to get all of the broadcast channels…and they should be able to receive broadcast service anywhere they are in the country,” Smith said in his speech today.

Sound good?

TV Technology provides the downer:

He touched on the necessity of reception. TV manufacturers are now required by law to make sets that decode and display ATSC over-the-air signals. It has already been determined that ATSC 3.0 will not be backward-compatible with the current standard, so TV sets in existence today will not work with it. The ATSC and NAB will need both the Federal Communications Commission and the Consumer Electronics Association on board to get ATSC 3.0 decoder and tuner chipsets into new TVs.

TV Technology said the government is not likely to fund any sort of conversion box as it did when it mandated broadcasters begin transmitting with digital signals. “Consumers then will have to either buy a new TV or subscribe to some type of subscription pay-TV or OTT service, it said.

  • MrE85

    Since the hated Comcast decided to scramble ALL of their channels on the bare-bone cable plan we pay for, we had to attached their Rube Goldberg device and use two remotes to operate our new TV. Our picture and sound quality is terrible since the switch. If corporations really are people, then Comcast is a very, very bad person, IMHO.

    • John O.

      I can hardly wait to see what the offspring of Charter/Comcast looks like here. I can feel my wallet trying to open itself even further….

    • Kassie

      That was the final straw for me. I was paying for the very basic cable and I cut that. They still get a good chunk of money from me each month for my internet though. I wish I could get rid of them completely.

  • tboom

    It figures, gotta create revenue streams out of free stuff. Maybe I’ll just go to a movie once in awhile and listen to MPR the rest of the time – better boost my MPR pledge before there’s a hostile takeover.

    • I think, if it provides some interractivity instead of merely a one-way broadcast medium, it has some attractiveness to it that outweighs the cost. It was only a matter of time that our TVs became like our phones and laptops anyway.

      • tboomdinosaur

        The ability of corporations to create “revenue streams” out of thin air is only limited by their imaginations. Maybe this won’t be complete “thin air” and new value will be created, but it will destroy the “old value” in being able to sit down on a cold winter night to veg out in front of a mindless one hour drama … unless you are willing to contribute even more to the revenue stream (or would that be a revenue river?). I guess I’m a dinosaur, but I like my crappy over-the-air content for free.

        Books are good too, and there’s still a library … for now.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Maybe I’m missing something but don’t many of the new TV’s have either a Network or USB jack? If so, and this new signal is being delivered via the Internet wouldn’t reception be a matter of hooking the TV to the network and upgrading the software in the set to decode the new signal? The issue then becomes data service to the home.

    • John Peschken

      I suspect the cable companies will want to insert their box between your set and the incoming signal. They will want you to use what Comcast calls their “X1 Operating System”, controlled by a remote they provide, with buttons to do things specific to Comcast, and have the possibility or renting you a DVR in that box. I doubt TV manufacturers will provide storage space for Comcast to insert their firmware or the necessary hooks to make it all built-in. You’ll still need a Comcast Box to translate this new signal into what your set can digest, fed in by USB, HDMI, or Ethernet cable. Comcast likes it that way.

    • Apparently 3.0 will have an entirely different data rate and sampling. http://youtu.be/7JYZDnenaGc

    • jon

      The signal likely won’t be delivered over the internet for the last mile. But it might be propagated to multiple broadcast locations (cell towers though maybe not through the AT&T/Verizon ones) through the internet.

      Upgrading TVs is not likely because:
      1) manufactures would have to upgrade all of their previous products, and likely wouldn’t see much return on doing the work to upgrade them.
      2) Tv’s have a lot of embedded hardware in their design, it makes them cheaper to build (generic chips are expensive compared to purpose built chips, and economies of scale on TV’s pull the price on purpose built chips down so that it’s lower than generic chips) So many (all) TVs might not even be upgradable if the companies had any motivation to upgrade them.
      3) Many consumers have moved to a disposable mind set, and bringing their TV into a shop to get it upgraded/repaired just doesn’t happen any more, they are more likely to use it as an excuse to toss their old TV and buy a new one any how.

  • “It uses Internet and cellular systems for TV transmission instead of antennas on tall towers.”

    So we’ve given Comcast and Time Warner control of the internet. Now we’re mandating that people who want to watch television MUST use the internet for TV transmission. This is a banner year for Comcast.

  • John Peschken

    I’m down to broadcast TV so I can get HD for local channels without paying Comcast for digital or dealing with their extra box. I have the most basic plan with comcast for internet. About the only things I watch on broadcast TV is TPT and occasionally sports. I can live without the sports and if need be, TPT. Through my Roku I get Netflix. A beefed up effort on TPT’s Roku Channel (kind of lame now) and I would not miss broadcast TV.

  • Chris

    Would the Internet ever be able to handle that much traffic? I can see the lag from here.

    • I think it’s just one distribution option. The TV people are REALLY ticked about how much of their spectrum has basically been stolen by the wireless companies.

    • John O.

      There’s bandwidth if your ISP doesn’t throttle the connection and/or you are willing to pay the piper for the high-speed connection. Net neutrality? Not so much.

  • KTFoley

    Can you clarify? Does this mean that there will no longer be broadcast TV?

  • John

    I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I think we (the public) have three things working in our favor:
    1) Government moves slowly. Really, really, really slowly. My expectation is that this will take years to implement.
    2) Even if the FCC (and whomever) decides that this should happen, big companies move slowly. Not as slowly as gov’t, but slow. I bet it will take 3-5 years to do the development and ramp up production inserting this into TV’s.
    3) I know that some of the big five (CBS, PBS, Fox, NBC and ABC) don’t want to be doing over the air broadcasting anyways, but I don’t think they’re ready to abandon it yet either. I don’t see them wanting to lose their over the air customers – even for a short time.

    My guess is that this will still have to be phased in over time (much like the switch to digital – which for people living in rural areas was kind of a screwing).

  • jon

    Someone said that if we had the kindle invented before the book, we’d all look at the book and be amazed at the ability to carry information around without having to worry about the battery going flat, and that the resolution in books could be so crisp all of the time.

    Cellular delivery of the last mile isn’t any better than the tall towers (it would probably be worse) it’s still going to be radio waves, probably even in the same frequency ranges in the VHF and UHF bands, it’s going to limit their broadcast zone down from 50-100+ miles per tower to 10-20 miles per tower.
    The reason we don’t use tall towers for phones is because the tower needs to be able to hear and process what is being said by all the phones in the area, covering a 5-10 mile range in the city is a reasonable number of phones connected at any given time, covering an area the size of a standard channel 2 broadcast from a 100 ft tower for cell phones is unrealistic, not to mention the increase in broadcasting power to cover the inverse square law on the distance to the tower, cell phone batteries would be dead in a few hours.
    Television doesn’t have that problem, it’s broadcast only, it doesn’t need two way communication, and it shouldn’t have it (think of the cell towers getting over loaded in a disaster situation, do we really want that for a system that is tied to the emergency broadcast system?) television can use large towers.