The Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) The WNET Group, serving the Tri-State New York City area, announced Wednesday its plans to launch NextGen TV ATSC 3.0 over-the-air (OTA) services for the No. 1 U.S. market.

The WNET Group is the largest PBS operation, with multiple channels in the approximately 7.45 million TV household marketplace.

Under The Group’s plan, The WNET Group’s WLIW21 (based on Long Island) will serve as the host station for ATSC 3.0 broadcasts for its three major PBS member stations in the New York metropolitan area including: THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and NJ PBS.

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NextGen TV (a.k.a. ATSC 3.0) is the latest version of OTA TV broadcasting to television sets equipped with compatible tuners connected to suitable antennas for the receiving location. The new standard brings several improvements over the previous digital ATSC 1.0 standard including better reception, up to 4K Ultra HDTV video, advanced surround sound, more channel options, mobile viewing on the go, and integrated on-demand internet-delivered content with interactive features, among other things. Participation in ATSC 3.0 broadcasting and the extent of features offered by each station is voluntary for each broadcaster.

Broadcasters will be required to maintain their current ATSC 1.0 broadcasts along with the new NextGen TV stations over a transition period, generally expected to be at least five years.

Viewers of the new channels will also need compatible 4K UHD TVs (for any 4K programming when it becomes available), ATSC 3.0 broadcast tuners and capable over-the-air antennas to receive the advanced broadcasts. Local multichannel service providers in the area have yet to announce plans, if any, for carrying the new stations or their features.

In the statement, WLIW21 said it will start by carrying high-definition programming from both WLIW21 and THIRTEEN, along with several standard-definition commercial sub-channels and the THIRTEEN PBS Kids service.

“As part of the transition to NextGen TV, viewers may expect features including 4K, interactivity, HDR, advanced emergency messaging, additional CC and audio languages, and more, all of which are in the works,” the Group stated.

WLIW21 said it has successfully completed extensive engineering tests and operational planning leading up to the launch. As part of its preparation, it has co-located broadcast facilities to One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, installed a new transmitter and related equipment, and upgraded to the station’s physical plant.

The transition is still subject to FCC approval, and The WNET Group said it will make another formal launch announcement in advance of throwing the switch. Over-the-air viewers will need to rescan their televisions to accommodate these changes upon service launch, the Group said.

“The WNET Group is excited to announce this significant undertaking with NextGen TV, which will modernize the New York City broadcast market infrastructure to deliver high-quality broadcasts with the latest technology available,” stated Neal Shapiro, President & CEO of The WNET Group.

“The WNET Group’s NextGen TV Broadcast Initiative will be the first to put New York City among the list of nearly 50 cities where NextGen TV signals are now available, as consumer technology companies expand the availability of integrated NextGen TV sets and related set-top receivers,” The Group said.

The WNET Group operates New York’s PBS stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21, operates New Jersey’s statewide public television network NJ PBS, and Long Island’s NPR station WLIW-FM.

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By Greg Tarr

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