Beaming 4K Would Make 'Biggest Difference' in ATSC 3.0 Adoption: Sony
Sony Electronics wants broadcasters to use their new ATSC 3.0 opportunity to begin beaming 4K programming with HDR over the air, Nick Colsey, vice president-business development, told the prerecorded ATSC broadcast conference Monday during the virtual NAB Show New York event. Broadcasting in 4K HDR will “make the biggest difference” in sowing 3.0 consumer adoption, he said.
Sony realizes it’s “hard” to procure 4K HDR content, “but there are hundreds of movies out there in 4K,” said Colsey. “Many TV shows are produced in 4K, though they’re not necessarily shown in 4K. Big sports events are shot on 4K cameras, but not necessarily played out in 4K. The availability of 4K content is getting there. It’s just one more hill to climb. Getting that out there on over-the-air TV is really what’s going to make the big difference.”
Samsung expects “some major sporting events” to be broadcast over 3.0 at resolutions “up to 4K,” said Jon Fairhurst, principal standards engineer at Samsung Research America. “The more information we get over the signal, the better the upscaling is,” he said. Samsung is building 3.0 into its complete 8K TV lineup for 2020, but the 3.0 suite of standards doesn’t currently support native 8K. There’s “no doubt people will notice the difference” between 720p at standard dynamic range on a conventional TV and 1080p with HDR on a 3.0-enabled set, he said.
LG Electronics sees “great benefit in HDR with 1080p upscaled,” agreed John Taylor, senior vice president-public affairs and communications. Bandwidth constraints have had many broadcasters looking toward using 1080p with HDR in launching 3.0 services, at least as an interim approach (see 1705160044). “This is going to really be demonstrable, no question,” said Taylor. Colsey agrees HDR is “really important,” he said. “Getting that story out there at retail on the floor of the showroom, and being able to do side-by-side comparisons of the picture-quality benefits of representative content from broadcasters -- that’s really what’s going to sell consumers on this story.”
Samsung began rolling out 3.0 TVs in late March, “but you didn’t hear much about it from us,” said Fairhurst, who chairs CTA’s TV manufacturers’ caucus. “New branding is hard. Even if it’s something as simple as, here’s a brand, it makes better pictures, it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time and energy to promote it. Something as sweeping as ATSC 3.0 is an order of magnitude harder. We’re really waiting for industry to come together to pool its resources so that consumers will start asking for it.” Though Samsung has been “quiet so far” on 3.0, “you can expect it won’t be so quiet moving forward,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is “a great time” for the consumer launch of 3.0, said Colsey. With people spending more time at home, many “are looking at their TV and thinking it’s about time they got a bigger and better TV. We think that trend is going to continue for a while.” Sony’s strategy will be to “seed the market with as many TVs as possible as the station rollouts continue,” he said. As with any new technology, “consumer education is really important,” he said.
A new Pearl TV website, WatchNextGenTV.com, will be “really aimed at consumers,” said Colsey. It will allow the public to find out which cities have 3.0 stations on the air with what kinds of content, he said. “If their city doesn’t have any stations, they can be notified” when stations locally go live with the service, he said. “We think this is a key part of the consumer education that this new format needs.” The website is scheduled to go live Friday and will be one piece of the new consumer outreach effort behind 3.0, Pearl spokesperson Dave Arland told us Monday.
With the springtime launch of 3.0 TVs at retail, it was “a little early yet” for LG to promote the technology to consumers, said Taylor. “There weren’t a lot of stations on the air. We’re still in that education mode with retailers. We have incorporated NextGenTV into our sales training materials.”
LG had “concerns early on there would be supply-chain constraints because of the early phases of the pandemic” but managed to avoid “major delays,” said Taylor. Its products are “now available nationwide.” LG is working “constantly with our retailers to help educate the salespeople,” he said. LG thinks "it’s still a little early" to be promoting 3.0 at retail, said Taylor. "In most markets, there’s nothing on the air yet. It will come in time, and as all the pieces of the ecosystem come together, you’re going to see a lot more promotion and a lot more activity at the retail level.”
Broadcasters need to “keep their foot on the accelerator” in rolling out 3.0 services to more markets, said Taylor. “Despite the pandemic, broadcasters have done amazingly well in getting on the air” with 3.0, he said. “Every month there are more markets lighting up.” Services will have launched in 20 top TV markets by year-end, he said. That’s “a little short of our original goal as an industry” of launching in the top 40 markets by the end of 2020, “but considering the current environment, that’s tremendous progress.”