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LeGeyt: 1.0 Cutoff Talk ‘Premature’

ATSC 3.0 Has Potential to Be ‘Great Success’ or ‘Total Flop’: Shapiro

How well ATSC 3.0 performs commercially “is up to us in this room and the companies we represent,” CTA CEO Gary Shapiro told ATSC’s NextGen Broadcast Conference Thursday in Detroit. “It could be a total flop, or it could be a great success,” he said. He told the conference broadcasters will need to “promote the heck” out of 3.0 for it to become a commercial success (see 2206090065).

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Shapiro over the years has been involved “in many different transitions with technologies, with industries that required each other to work together,” he said. “Some were just total flops,” said Shapiro, noting 3D television is one that “sticks out.” 3DTV was “an opium” for TV set manufacturers, movie theater owners, “even some broadcasters and a major sports network,” he said, in obvious reference to ESPN. “They drank that opium and they believed their hallucination,” he said. “It was not a successful venture.”

Tech manufacturers “are not going to produce products that consumers don’t want,” said Shapiro. “It’s really expensive to do that, and you lose your company if you do that.” Tech makers are “skeptical,” he said. “They can respond to increased demand pretty quickly, but they’re not going to start producing en masse until they see that demand to justify the significant investment.”

Shapiro is aware that in India “there’s a discussion about mandating ATSC 3.0,” he said. “I know that can be a glorious moment for some people here, and maybe that’s what you want,” he said. “I’m pretty confident to say we will oppose that, because I think you can advertise something a lot better.” After years of living through campaigns to mandate FM chips in smartphones and V-chips in TVs, Shapiro said, he still believes “mandating something is the way you kill something.”

NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt thinks it’s “premature” to discuss turning off the ATSC 1.0 service the way the wireless industry ceased 3G, he told the conference via Zoom. “It’s premature to even speculate on a date,” he said. “We are in the business of servicing consumers.” Broadcasters believe there’s “a lot of potential and consumer benefits from ATSC 3.0 proliferating, but we need to ensure that those benefits have been realized and that the marketplace has realized them before phasing out, in any sort of universal way, the 1.0 signal,” he said.

If there were a “strict schedule here” for a 1.0 service cutoff mandated by the FCC for broadcasters and TV set makers, “it would be easy to sort of track out what’s the right point to phase out the 1.0 signal,” said LeGeyt. “We don’t have that here.” The 3.0 transition, in contrast to the shift from analog to digital TV, is “market-driven,” he said. There’s a lot of potential for 3.0 to become “very, very successful,” he said. “But if we start putting artificial dates out there, I actually think it becomes more of an impediment than a help,” he said.