Interesting interview. Aspects I find interesting being the acknowledgment that
a separate broadband link will be required for certain services, the
acknowledgment that portable wireless use of ATSC 3.0 may be more likely in
other parts of the world, where the cellcos do not determine what features
devices operating on their network can and cannot support, and the apparent
international interest in ATSC 3.0.
Although if India is transitioning already to DVB-T2, no matter how much analog
still lingers on, one has to wonder if it's realistic to see a switch to ATSC
3.0 in India?
Reading through this, I can't help but think that most of what's new, e.g.
feedback on what each TV set is doing, is simply going to be using that
broadband link. I would not make the assumption that either you use a separate
broadband connection, or you use some sort of one-way "back channel," and the
downlink is aggregated over the ATSC 3.0 broadcast. The problem with the latter
Sinclair ATSC 3.0 Receiver Spec Q&A: Mark Aitken
Sinclair looks to leverage big data
November 10, 2016
By Deborah D. McAdams
BALTIMORE-Sinclair Broadcast Group, ever the proponent of the emerging two-way
broadcast TV transmission standard known as ATSC 3.0, announced on Oct. 31 an
effort to develop receiver specifications. Sinclair announced that it and its
subsidiary, ONE Media, were developing receiver technology that would provide
the type of immediate audience usage and behavior data now available to online
entities. Since receiver specs are typically the bailiwick of receiver
manufacturers a la the Consumer Technology Association, and audience metrics of
third-party providers, TV Technology wondered just how this effort would work
and what would be involved.
Sinclair Vice President of Advanced Technology Mark Aitken obliged.
TV Technology: How will these receiver specs work? Will you guys draw them up
and share them with the Consumer Technology Association and/or set-makers?
Mark Aitken: We will share across the interrelated industries, and drive
specific requirements. Instead of having disparate entities-we create and
distribute/transmit content, and somebody else decides what they need to
receive those services-hoping we have a distribution system that works, we work
to define the end-to-end requirements across multiple classes of devices in
multiple service environments. Starting with identifying and defining the full
When you take up a direct-to-home satellite service, for example, you don't
subscribe to a service separately, buy your own receiver separately, and hook
it up to your own dish separately-and hope it works! It might, but most often
TVT: So can we expect a Sinclair Beyondfinity set-top box? How will this model
comply with federal DTV receiver requirements?
Aitken: Too early to be speculating. We will do whatever is required to drive
TVT: Are you working directly with a chipmaker, and if so, which one?
Aitken: We are in discussions with current known ATSC 3.0 chip manufacturers,
but also reaching out to other non-traditional partners and discussing
investment opportunities. We have an initiative (future announcement) underway
to bring other non-traditional ATSC DTT countries into the global opportunities
opened with 3.0.
What if a chip said, "Made in India"?
TVT: Indeed... let's get back to that, but first, will these features be
present in early receiver chipsets?
Aitken: From our perspective-and I would say mirrored understanding by most of
the broadcast players committed to 3.0-we need complete functionality "out of
the box." Of particular concern is the idea that activities within CTA are
already working towards limiting important elements of the for ATSC 3.0
physical layer. Expect broadcasters to establish the equivalent of a "Good
Housekeeping" seal of approval receiver compliance (not to be confused with an
ATSC conformance) program.
TVT: OK, back to India. Sinclair was a "Gold Partner" for October's Broadcast
India Show in Mumbai. What was that about?
Aitken: We are also a lifetime Sponsor of the Broadcast Engineering Society of
India, and will be speaking/attending their annual conference in February.
India is about opportunities to leverage an extremely capable workforce and
manufacturing community. ATSC 3.0 will go Global, and that is good for the
ecosystem. We are working to impact every market we can in every way imaginable.
TVT: Should we expect some ATSC 3.0 news with regard to India, which adopted
DVB-2 in 2008 and is still transitioning to it from analog?
Aitken: They are still massively analog, but this present government and the
Prime Minister have an aggressive view of catalyzing change. "Digital India"
and "Make in India" are two very far reaching government initiatives. We hope
that with the help of the PMO, Parliament and industry players we can provide
understanding of the transformative opportunities ATSC 3.0 could provide in a
convergent "5G" hybrid service environment, and we are developing a Pilot
project that we will deploy/support to highlight many of the most valuable
TVT: South Korea plans to launch ATSC 3.0 next year. How would this full
link-budget model square with 3.0 deployments worldwide?
Aitken: Link budgets are link budgets. They tie use cases with service
requirements. We hope to add value to the entire ATSC 3.0 ecosystem.
TVT: Will consumers be able to opt out of data-gathering?
Aitken: Full compliance with all privacy requirements.
TVT: These, the FCC's broadband privacy rules adopted Oct. 27?
Aitken: When is all of something other than everything?
TVT: Fair enough. Will there be a tiered service where opt-outs pay for certain
features and content that the data-gathered get for free?
Aitken: Pretty sure it is not a one-way street. Tiered service op-out may limit
access to some of the services...yes. Pay is a different/parallel issue, and up
to the service provider.
TVT: Is Sinclair planning a subscription-based auxiliary service model in
addition to providing a primary video signal?
Aitken: That surely one of the value equations we are contemplating, as are
other broadcasters. To be competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace, we
must look at all opportunities and determine if we can provide reasons for
consumers to move to the new services we will be fully capable of supporting.
TVT: Does this indicate that part of ONE Media is to be a provider of viewing
Aitken: What is being done will enable a central operator or multiple
operators. Whether that is ONE Media or some "NewCo" (or an industry
partnership or other) is too early to define. The work we are doing must be
done, and we have decided to make sure it gets done.
TVT: But don't advertisers demand third-party audience metrics?
Aitken: First, we must ensure all the hooks are in place. Then we have to
ensure the data can be gathered. Then we will find a way to create value
(create a currency) that parties can trust. Part of today's problems are the
very sample size (a few hundred samples for millions of viewers?), and
extrapolation that cannot possibly know where individual users/viewers are
coming from or going to. No way to really know what the viewer/user community
is doing. We would like them to play longer in our world, and in the future,
that will be possible if we get it right! And our world, the world of
Broadcasting, will expand and offer more places for folks to go and enjoy the
entertainment/information opportunities we offer in a converged hybrid future.
We are ready to compete!
TVT: Will the spec explicitly dictate a broadband connection and application
Aitken: Provisions for a broadband connection, yes. Dictate? Service-dependent.
This first and second level of activity may be passed on to specific service
organization and built upon for incorporation. Specs define ways to provide
capabilities, not a demand to be incorporated except as required by the service
TVT: Will this spec be adoptable by the wireless industry and thus make
possible for an ATSC 3.0 chip in a smartphone?
Aitken: We are wireless.
There is already a serious discussion underway to bring some of this activity
into 3GPP to ensure a seamless way is defined for 3.0 eventual incorporation.
That is a bit of a separate, business-driven discussion. However...
You can easily imagine the ATSC 3.0 standard being embraced and moved forward
in emerging global environments outside of the U.S., where the wireless
carriers do not define all of the specifics of devices. Consumers choose the
devices they want, they separately subscribe with the mobile service provider
of their choice.
In such an open bring-your-own device environment-with mobile 3.0-enabled
services built into open devices and consumers buying devices aligned with the
broadcast service-then a separate wireless carrier selected.
Create the proper environment with consumer demand, this will happen here in
TVT: That's a major shift in the current wireless device/service model. I can't
help but think it would take an unimaginably compelling offer to dislodge it,
like something along the lines of, "and a magic pony, too."
Aitken: It is only a shift for the U.S. The rest of the world operates in this
fashion...buy the device of your choice, with the capabilities you want, then
subscribe to a voice and data plan with the service provider of YOUR choice.
Now, the "magic pony" would be enough for my granddaughter, but will not sway
most people ;-) There will always be free TV, and we will make it mobile.
Better than a "magic pony"? Then, a whole bunch of better things...
TVT: What else should we know about this technology?
Aitken: All of this (above) is primarily focused on the "receive" side. On the
data side, there is a whole other long list of things to discuss. We will get
to that at some point I presume...
TVT: OK, well, that. We're all a little skittish about data collection and the
campfire tales of our TVs watching us. What data does Sinclair expect to
collect, and how do you expect to use it? Dynamic advertising, for example?
Aitken: Dynamic advertising...yes. Personalized services...yes. Alternative
channels that are supported in a hybrid environment, internet delivered, new
OTT choices. Service following in the OTA environment. Zonal advertising?
Hyperlocal services? The list goes on...and on...
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