ATSC 3.0, the newest standard of over-the-air TV that brings higher quality picture and sound, on Monday arrived in Chicago, with five local stations upgrading to the technology.
The local CBS (WBBM-TV), FOX (WFLD-TV), NBC (WMAQ-TV), WGN and Univision (WGBO-TV) are all broadcasting on the new standard. Users with an antenna can re-scan their channels to pick up the new feeds, although you’ll need a compatible tuner for many TVs that don’t have NextGen TV technology built in.
The expansion of NextGen TV in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest TV market, is a big milestone as the standard tries to reach more people and raise awareness about the new broadcast technology. It also means the company has exceeded its goal of launching in 75 markets and 75% of the population by the Super Bowl on February 11 (Chicago marks No. 76). That’s a critical turning point with backers believing that scale will push broadcasters, networks, and retailers to more aggressively back the technology.
“America’s third-largest TV market is riding the NEXTGEN TV wave, with the addition of new capabilities for broadcasters and viewers,” said Anne Schelle, managing director of the Pearl TV group of TV broadcasters that coordinated the Chicago launch.
ATSC 3.0 is expected to deliver new features like high dynamic range and Dolby surround sound audio. Because the signals are sent via IP packets, like internet traffic, you’ll start to see more smart TV and app-like experiences over the air, with startups like ROXI already pushing the boundaries of what live TV can look like. In an interview with Cord Cutters News in January, Schelle noted the potential to create temporary pop-up channels to handle events like big games or local political debates.
One of the hurdles to NextGen TV is the lack of compatible hardware. But Samsung, Sony, and Hisense sell TVs with built-in tuners, with TCL coming later this year. Pearl TV is also looking to get the cost of ATSC 3.0 tuners down to $50, and is optimistic the prices will go down as more people adopt the technology.