Comcast Is Starting to Encrypt Its Free Over The ATSC 3.0 TV Stations Meaning Many Cord Cutters Can’t Watch Free Local TV Anymore Without Upgrade





Watching tv and using remote control

This morning many people are waking up to find that Comcast has added content protection to encrypt some of its NBC Universal-owned stations. These stations include owned by Hearst ABC WCVB in Boston and Comcast’s NBC 10 in Boston. This was spotted by Matthew Mello this morning on Twitter.

One of the features of ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV is the ability to add content protection. This encryption prevents recording or even viewing of the stations unless you have a device with the right device. Sadly for most cord cutters there are only a couple of these devices on the market that do support this encryption, and most ATSC 3.0 tuners right now do not support it right now.

This means that many will be forced to find one of the few encrypted ATSC 3.0 tuners on the market. If they can’t, they will now need to pay for a live TV service like DIRECTV STREAM or Fubo to watch the local TV that they got for free recently. Or you will need to switch back ATSC 1.0.

TV station owners say this encryption will prevent piracy but others argue that it will force cord cutters to buy expensive devices or pay to watch their local TV station.

Several external tuner makers like Zapperbox and HDHomerun say they will be updating their devices to support this DRM. All TVs that are coming to the market or on the market now with a ATSC 3.0 tuner will reportedly support the DRM needed.

TV stations hope this new DRM will help crack down on piracy.

This encryption has also delayed the new ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV DVR from Tablo. Earlier this year Tablo started to email customers who had preordered its ATSC 3.0 QUAD HDMI DVR for use with Next Gen OTA TV that they would be getting a full refund of their DVR pre-order.

We had hoped to ship pre-orders before the end of 2022 but were obviously unable to meet that target. ATSC 3.0 is a very new standard and certifications and other technical issues have caused unforeseen delays.” Grant Hall, the CEO of Nuvyyo the parent company of Tablo, said in the email to customers.

Grant Hall went on to say that the delay and refund of the new ATSC 3.0 DVR were caused by the new DRM that can be used to encrypt ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. “While this feature is not used widely yet, we are committed to ensuring this Tablo DVR is fully compliant with all aspects of the ATSC 3.0 standard. This includes support for DRM and certification from relevant standards bodies.”

Antenna Man has a great YouTube Video covering this and explaining the DRM coming to OTA TV:

For now, as we transition over to ATSC 3.0, this new DRM encryption will be an issue until a standard is set that all tuners for your antenna can use.

This move by Comcast raises one question with so few devices in the market supporting this DRM, why add it now? Why not wait until more devices support the DRM later this year or next year?

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