Good news for those who can’t (or won’t) use over-the-air TV antennas and aren’t ready to cut the cord — tests have begun for transmitting NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) signals over cable TV platforms.

Broadcasters supporting the ATSC 3.0 Phoenix, Arizona Model Market project for NextGen TV managed by broadcaster group Pearl TV are now testing the new digital TV broadcasting format over limited cable infrastructure. The process is being performed in cooperation with giant cable Multi System Operator (MSO), Comcast.

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Phoenix Model Market Partners have been testing various phases of the new broadcasting technology for the past several years, and have now turned their attention toward cable re-transmissions by working closely with Comcast in Portland, Oregon. This will develop and evaluate delivery of NextGen TV signals over Comcast’s infrastructure through technical collaboration between the various parties.

The partners hope the trials will lead to establishing a foundation and repeatable example of how to transmit ATSC 3.0 over hybrid fiber-coaxial cable lines, the test group said.

“While the Phoenix Model Market continues to expand its testing capability, we will be working together with industry leader Comcast to test out compatibility between both the current cable and future broadcast architecture in the Portland market,” stated Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, which manages the model market efforts. “We want to ensure that our viewers over cable can enjoy the enhanced video and audio experience that NextGen TV plans to offer. Seven local broadcasters are now on the air with NextGen TV in Portland, so it makes sense to work with a major operator in the area like Comcast to determine what’s needed to distribute this new capability to cable customers.”

“While it is still very early in the process, this short-term integration effort will provide broadcast partners, manufacturers, and our technical groups valuable insights into the performance of the technology. We are currently exercising our links with the broadcast ATSC 3.0 over-the-air transmission signal, as well as adding more fiber link resources to our local headend as an important first step,” added Jerry Parkins, Sr. Director of Digital Technology and Standards for Comcast.

The team is working on the ability to pass 4K Ultra HD content in NextGen TV transmissions over cable lines and will eventually add on additional features including data for High Dynamic Range (HDR10), Wide Color Gamut and advanced surround sound formats supported in the ATSC 3.0 specifications.

Last July, seven local television stations in the Portland market — including KATU (ABC), KOIN (CBS), KGW (NBC), KPTV (Fox), KOPB-TV (PBS), KRCW-TV (CW) and KPDX (MyNet) — were among the first broadcasters in the country to begin OTA transmissions of NextGen TV services.

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By Greg Tarr

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