Within hours of today’s FCC vote to authorize the ATSC 3.0 next-generation TV broadcasting standard, Sinclair and subsidiary OneMedia confirmed plans to go nationwide with the standard.
Sinclair has long been a vocal supporter of ATSC 3.0 and has invested heavily in developing and testing the standard. As such, David Smith, executive chairman of Sinclair, issued a particularly celebratory statement:
"As we have pressed for 20 years, broadcasters and consumers alike deserve the best innovations available. We finally have that ability and are ready to lead an industry in deployment, service offerings, enhancements and business development. We are ‘off the plateau’ and ready to climb the next mountain along with our broadcast brethren, manufacturers, programmers and new business partners, looking down on wondrous new opportunities. There should only be upside for all concerned—including most importantly, the Public!"
Sinclair President and CEO Chris Ripley joined in, praising the FCC for authorizing the standard.
“Chairman Pai's leadership to craft rules that are flexible and nonintrusive is to be applauded. The Staff has done an excellent and thorough analysis in record time, and we appreciate its great efforts to think through ramifications and permit the market to flourish with minimal constraints. Now is the real test for the industry to make good on technology's promise. We have our work cut out for us and we are up to the task,” said Ripley in a statement.
Factoring in acquisitions including Tribune Media and the recently closed Bonten Media, Sinclair will hold 233 stations in about 108 markets, according to Moody’s.
Earlier this year, Sinclair and Nexstar formed a spectrum consortium and a coordinated transition plan in anticipation of ATSC 3.0 gaining FCC approval.
Jerry Fritz, executive vice president of strategic and legal affairs at Sinclair, said the first step is to find “like-minded broadcasters who are intent on deploying ATSC 3.0.” After that, it’s a matter of sitting down with all the broadcasters on a market-by-market basis and determining which station is best for hosting of ATSC 1.0 and which is best for 3.0.
Deciding factors on how to structure the ATSC 3.0 transition will include considering which stations’ towers have the best reach, which stations can deploy single frequency networks, and which facilities are set up for the most flexible use of bit pooling.
Bit pooling is when a broadcaster takes their 6 megahertz of spectrum and chops it up to be digitized, under ATSC 3.0 that leaves about 25 Mbps of throughput. Then, the stations within a same market combine those bits leftover after the required TV service is provided, and they can lease them to anyone who wants them, Fritz said.
ATSC 3.0 benefits for consumers, as outlined by the FCC, include Ultra High Definition television and better reception, mobile viewing capabilities, advanced emergency alerts, better accessibility features, localized content and interactive educational children’s content.
Rules set forth by the order include a requirement that broadcasters using ATSC 3.0 partner with another local station in their market to simulcast their programming in the current DTV standard, called ATSC 1.0. Next-gen TV signals will also be subject the public interest obligations that currently apply to television broadcasters, and broadcasters will be required to provide advance on-air notifications to educate consumers about next-generation TV service deployment and simulcasting.