One of the nation’s first NextGen TV stations will be CW-affiliate KVCW in Las Vegas, when its transmissions go live starting May 26th, the broadcaster announced this week.

According to broadcast TV industry trade news site, TV Technology, the Sinclair station in Las Vegas will begin broadcasting in ATSC 3.0 later this month after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic from the original plan to go live for the cancelled April NAB Show.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), announced at CES that the NextGen TV 3.0 system would launch in more than 60 markets, reaching 70% of all viewers in the U.S. by the end of the year.

When it arrives, the new NextGen TV (aka ATSC 3.0) digital broadcast system standard will bring a host of advanced features and capabilities, most of which will be available free to view on supporting TVs and TV connected to tuner devices using traditional over-the-air antennas. But unlike the first digital TV transition, this time implementation by broadcasters is voluntary, and each station has the ability to decide which supported features and capabilities their signals will address.

Little is known yet about exactly which of those new features each of the first stations will carry. However, the system is designed to provide much more robust reception than the current ATSC 1.0 standard. That means viewers that have trouble getting channels today due to mulitpath issues, hilly conditions or thick apartment walls might be able to receive the new signals with more basic antenna solutions. The signals will also be receiveable on mobile devices and will all broadcasters to measure audience viewership, conduct interactive surveys and sales transactions, provide more targeted advertising and better integrate for internet protocol-based services.

The standard also supports up to 4K resolution signals with multiple profiles of high dynamic range (HDR), though HLG is the most likely to be used version for its on-the-fly live capabilities. In discussing their options to date, most broadcasters seem to be stepping away from using 4K resolution due to the heavy bandwidth requirements, and those who have expressed interest in deliver HDR have indicated they would likely do so in 1080p Full HD signals — that’s still better than ATSC 1.0’s maximum 720p and 1080i HD signals today.

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Exactly what features will be afforded by the first Las Vegas broadcasts were not disclosed, but under the announced plan KVCW’s 3.0 transmission will include content from CW, CBS, ABC and NBC networks. All four stations will share equal portions of the station’s spectrum. The three other networks will follow KVCW CW programming. Sinclair’s signal portion in the mix was described as being, “highly robust.”

Part of the NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) launch plan is to maintain current ATSC 1.0 digital over-the-air broadcasts by sharing spectrum with other broadcasters in the same market. As part of the effort, TV Technology reported that Sinclair will partner with three other Las Vegas commercial TV stations to co-host KVCW’s current ATSC 1.0 programming. Those include the following:

KTNV, (Scripps-owned ABC affiliate), will host KVCW’s 1.0 CW signal;
KLAS, (Nexstar CBS affiliate), will host three of KVCWs digital subchannels: TBD, ThisTV and Comet;
KSNV, (Sinclair’s NBC affiliate), will self-host NBC and carry MyNet as a digital subchannel.

Of course, the launch of the first ATSC 3.0 stations will face a chicken-&-egg condrum as little or nothing in the way of ATSC 3.0-ready receivers are available for consumers to tune in the broadcasts. At CES 2020, LG, Samsung and Sony all announced plans to launch some 20 mostly higher-end television models this year that incorporate ATSC 3.0 tuner hardware, but further firmware updates are required to activate the feature.

The TV makers are waiting to see how the first stations adjust their broadcast signals to ensure everything works correctly. Both Samsung (QLED TVs) and LG (OLED TVs) have some of their 2020 ATSC 3.0-tuner-enabled 4K/HDR models in the market now and Sony is preparing to launch its more mainstream 2020 4K XBR X900H (LED LCD TV) series soon.

In addition, Silicondust USA recently launched a Kickstarter investment fundraising effort to produce an add-on ATSC 3.0 tuner solution for legacy TVs in the form of its HDHomeRun Quatro 3.0 Gateway device. The effort reached its cap for a $199 early release product in a matter of days. The company hasn’t announced when a retail version of the device will be ready for market.

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By Greg Tarr

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