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Posted on September 9, 2021 in ATSC News

The return of conference activities with hybrid events in Washington in August brought into focus the power of collaboration.  ATSC Board Chair Lynn Claudy and TG3 Vice Chair Skip Pizzi, who were both able to attend the event in Washington in person, shared their reflections.

“From a ten-thousand-foot view, the ATSC NextGen Broadcast Conference highlighted for me that, in the time we’ve been largely working from home and sequestered in our Zoom sessions over the past year and a half, a tremendous amount of progress on developing, refining and implementing ATSC 3.0 has nonetheless been taking place, and there is now a whole lot to talk about and a lot of pent-up demand to hear about it. And a lot was indeed said at the conference on-stage, discussed over lunch and dinner and is now being dissected and analyzed after everyone has returned to their homes. So if some of the goals of the conference were to act as a sounding board for new ideas, serve as a barometer for current implementation and act as an industry water cooler for conversation and debate, then I’d say those goals were handily achieved,” Claudy said. He further indicated that there was plenty of notable content at the conference “beyond the novelty factor that most of the presenters and attendees were there in full 3D reality, and the effectiveness of integrating virtual and real presenters and attendees in sessions came off as natural and seamless. All of the sessions were excellently curated and full of important information but several particularly stood out for me.

“The opportunity to hear from two FCC Commissioners and the Chief of the FCC Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau not only gave a hometown feel to the Washington, D.C. event, but the view from the regulators was decidedly supportive on the role of ATSC 3.0 in the future of broadcasting, and that in itself was an important message. I expected to hear progress on stations going on the air, logos going on receivers and receivers going into stores, and I wasn’t disappointed. But there was also a new elevated sense of purpose, progress and reality surrounding the sessions dealing with non-traditional services, notably distance learning and automotive applications, that not only impressed me but imparted a confident sense of likely marketplace success in what has heretofore been mostly elusive industry ambition.

Rewarding Excellence

“I found it both satisfying and highly appropriate to conclude the conference with Alan Stein receiving the Bernard Lechner Award and Senator Gordon Smith being presented with the Mark Richer Industry Leadership Medal. Interdigital’s Alan Stein represents everything that ATSC looks for in leaders for its specialist groups and planning teams, or in his case, both, with the burned-in latent image of Bernie Lechner looking on. And as President of NAB since 2009, Gordon Smith has been an indefatigable supporter and advocate for ATSC 3.0 and NextGen TV at the executive leadership level with broadcasters, government officials and industry titans ever since ATSC 3.0 was just a gleam in the eye of former ATSC President Mark Richer over a decade ago. These awards, and those of previous years, show the best side of ATSC and honor the best of the ATSC community. I’m a big fan.”

TG3 Vice Chair and media consultant Skip Pizzi said that “it was great to get back on the road and meet with colleagues face-to-face for the first time in 18 months.  What stood out for me most were the rapid progress reported in receiver deployment (e.g., one major TV manufacturer already includes ATSC 3.0 reception across its full current lineup of TVs) and the burgeoning interest in the automotive space for ATSC 3.0 as a potential telematics datacast platform. It was also encouraging to see the early use of ATSC 3.0 datacasting for distance learning and to hear about the imminent launch of ATSC 3.0 services in the Washington DC and Los Angeles markets.”

Reaching New Heights

“I enjoyed learning that FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr was a tower climber (!), and appreciated Gray Television Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Distribution Rob Folliard’s observation that ‘broadcasters must make cable better’ with NextGen TV—because rather than battling with each other, cable and broadcast are competing together against fast-growing OTT services. Folliard also raised some eyebrows when he suggested that strange bedfellows of the future might include ‘Netflix local affiliates.’ That’s some food for thought,” Pizzi said.

“I was happy to again hear Commissioner Carr’s reminder that certain features unique to ATSC 3.0 are exempt from traditional broadcast ownership regulations, and to observe for the first time Commissioner Nathan Simington’s already deep understanding of NextGen TV and its importance to U.S. TV broadcasters’ future business prospects.

“Finally, the amount of new investment in ATSC 3.0 so tangibly represented by the exhibitors at the event was impressive, as evidenced by the number of new devices and systems they have developed and begun to deploy. Thanks to all involved in producing this welcome event, and I’m looking forward to more of the same in the ATSC pavilion at the October NAB Show in Las Vegas,” Pizzi said.

A Resilient Attitude

Chair Claudy said that “the past 18 months have been full of stories of health struggles, personal grief, business challenges of various types and an overall sense of unfamiliarity, bad timing and unwanted change. Part of the story of societal resilience in the face of this pandemic continues to be the inexorable but cautious return to normal business activity.

“The ATSC NextGen Broadcast Conference was one of the first industry events to attempt, at scale, to conduct a hybrid in-person/virtual conference as we continue down the lengthy and winding path toward eventual normality. Even with the careful health safety precautions that were put in place, it was a gamble as to whether people would come to such an event, no matter how interested they were in the subject matter or how devoted they were to ATSC-related issues.

“The greatest lesson to come out of the conference was perhaps seeing the commitment and personal perseverance from the superhero-level ATSC staff and event organizers to pull off a top-notch conference safely, as well as the enthusiasm of the almost 200 in-person attendees and the eye-opening demonstrations and equipment displays from the nearly twenty exhibitors,” Claudy said.

“All this made the case for me that; (1) there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, and (2) unquestionably there is a firm place developing for ATSC 3.0 in the media marketplace, even in the midst of a health crisis and business uncertainties. I suppose that’s my biggest takeaway and source of collective pride from the event—it’s happening.”