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Stations ‘Hyperfocused’: LeGeyt

Broadcasters Need to ‘Promote the Heck’ Out of ATSC 3.0, Says Shapiro

For ATSC 3.0 to become a commercial success, broadcasters “have to promote the heck out of it,” CTA CEO Gary Shapiro told the NextGen Broadcast Conference Thursday in Detroit. Shapiro spoke in person on a panel with NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt, who participated via Zoom because, he said, his wife tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday. Shapiro said he tested positive a few weeks ago.

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Broadcasters “have to create the demand” for 3.0, said Shapiro. LG, Samsung and Sony are “really gung ho” about 3.0, he said. “They’ll try to promote it. They’ll advertise it, but they can’t do it alone, and that requires a tremendous effort by broadcasters getting in there and being first.”

LeGeyt thinks NAB and CTA “are working tremendously well together across numerous different aspects of this” to advance 3.0, he said. In the chicken-and-egg give-and-take between broadcasters and TV makers, LeGeyt agrees the broadcast industry “obviously needs to promote” 3.0 to consumers, he said. But consumers “then need to turn around, buy the sets, and access the experience that matches what we’re promoting,” he said. ATSC 3.0's “tipping point” of success hinges on the set manufacturers “enabling that access,” he said.

NAB “couldn’t be happier about the partnership” with CTA on 3.0 standards-setting, consumer education and “the early pieces of this promotion” around local 3.0 deployments around the U.S., said LeGeyt. “But we’ve got a lot further to grow,” he said. LeGeyt thinks it would be “very, very hard to do a nationwide promotional effort” behind 3.0 “when the technology’s not there nationwide,” he said. He applauds broadcasters who are “hyperfocused” on promoting 3.0 in individual markets, he said.

What appeared planned as a discussion about how CTA and NAB can work harmoniously for the common 3.0 good deteriorated rapidly into a combative policy argument about regulating Big Tech. Broadcasters are “still in the initial stages” of their 3.0 deployments, LeGeyt told Shapiro, “and we appreciate the collaboration with you and your members” to promote 3.0 collectively. The NAB chief thinks “the sky’s the limit here” in terms of what the two trade groups can achieve if they work together, he said.

But there is a limit here, Curtis,” responded Shapiro. “It’s tough to collaborate with someone when you’re investing a lot of your resources fighting ideas that they’re pushing forth toward policymakers,” he said. “You pushed so hard to get a tax on all devices at the FCC, which thankfully the FCC rejected this week.”

When NAB is “out there all the time talking about Big Tech and how horrible technology is, and trying to push that agenda in Washington, we’re obviously out there fighting it,” said Shapiro. “That’s something that just doesn’t make us really feel close to you. If you want us to work with you, we’re spending our resources working against you right now because you keep pushing horrible proposals.” NAB is making “strategic decisions which I think are very harmful to the relationship between equipment makers and broadcasters,” he said.

Any “advocacy” NAB is conducting on technology only “relates to the largest tech companies” -- Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, responded LeGeyt. “Let’s be very honest,” he said, those tech giants are “impeding competition and pushing out many of your members who can’t compete with them.”

As a result of their “market dominance,” Big Tech companies serve as “gatekeepers whose market power has found a way into breaking down the business model for locally focused journalism,” said LeGeyt. “That is not a broadcast-specific issue. We’ve seen in this country what has happened with newspapers, local digital outlets. There’s no business model for it. Broadcasters are doing our best to fill that void.”

NAB has no agenda that focuses on “doing anything to technology and innovation in this country,” said LeGeyt. “Our focus is on four companies that have absolutely outsized market power, and I think that that is in our mutual benefit.”

ATSC 3.0 enables TVs to become “a more complete tool for delivering content,” FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington told the conference via prerecorded video. “A lot of the things that we want in bridging the digital divide can be accomplished through ATSC 3.0,” he said.

What if, during the COVID-19 pandemic, schools “had been able to step back from overtaxed in-school wireline connections” because the capacity “to deliver educational content over broadcast was already in every home?” asked Simington. “In a few years, when most homes have an ATSC 3.0-capable television, and every broadcaster has an ATSC 3.0 transmission, not only will we have these capacities as a nation, but we’ll be able to take a hard look at how to more effectively allocate school funds,” he said. “For this reason alone, the American public has a financial interest in the success of ATSC 3.0.”

Widespread 3.0 adoption “will also bring one-to-many, high-powered, over-the-air IP datacasting to almost every location in America,” said Simington. “Every car and factory in the country will become a potential first-class citizen of data connectivity,” he said. “Imagine the reduction in recall effort when firmware and software can update instantly over the air. Imagine the renewed relevance of on-vehicle infotainment. Imagine real-time geotargeting of emergency alerts for traveling families.”

ATSC moved the annual conference to Detroit from its customary site in Washington deliberately to highlight what it considers 3.0's potential as an enabler of automotive entertainment and connectivity. ATSC President Madeleine Noland used her opening remarks to spring the surprise announcement that South Korea’s Hyundai Mobis has developed a 3.0 receiver for vehicles that has “completed testing.” The company anticipates “the first commercially available automobile” with 3.0 in the U.S. market in 2023, she said.

ATSC gave Sony Electronics its 2022 Richer Industry Leadership Medal for its commitment as the first TV maker to build 3.0 reception into every new Sony TV model. The medal is named after former ATSC President Mark Richer, who retired in May 2019 (see 1904100043).