Broadcasters Push Next-Gen Standard in D.C.


WASHINGTON — Broadcasters want the Federal Communications Commission to act ASAP on their request to let them start rolling out a new, interactive, broadcast transmission standard they suggest could help advance the flight of viewers from the pay-for-play MVPD model.

While station owners said it would be most efficient to let them do that at the same time that they must make the forced march to new channels as part of the spectrum auction — likely more than 1,000 stations will have to move — they said there is another important reason, driven in part by the competition from both online video, which the FCC’s auction of spectrum to wireless companies could boost, and their traditional pay competitors.

The FCC is collecting data on the competitiveness of the video market. In its response, the National Association of Broadcasters argued that one of the most important things the FCC can do to promote competition in the marketplace is to approve the next-generation ATSC 3.0 transmission standard.

That’s particularly the case given the rise in cord-cutters, the NAB said, even painting a picture of a post-pay TV world where the young, lower-income and growing minority populations are “ditching” their “bloated” pay TV packages for a combination of over-the-top and over-the-air.

The NAB cited GfK figures that said 22% of households with residents aged 18- 34 rely on solely over-the-air broadcasting for their TV content, and 38% rely on a mix of OTA and OTT content.

“Enter broadcasters with a new transmission standard to deliver the interactivity that used to be the exclusive province of pay providers,” they argued.

ATSC 3.0 has a big fan in FCC commissioner Ajit Pai. In a speech last week in Kansas, Pai, a Republican, said the regulator needs “to act quickly to promote innovation in the broadcast space” and called for action before the end of the year and final rules by mid-2017.

The chairman’s office had no comment on the petition’s status or when there might be a decision.