The Team Behind NextGen ATSC 3.0 OTA TV Explains Why DRM is Needed For Free OTA TV





Girl watching TV

Over the last month, there has been a lot of talk about DRM in free over-the-air TV with the new ATSC 3.0 standard. Several companies, including Comcast, have started to encrypt TV stations they own that are broadcasting on the NextGen TV standard.

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 DRM. 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.

The good news is the older ATSC 3.0 tuners on the market without the encryption will soon get upgraded to support the DRM.

So why have encryption for free OTA TV that you get with an antenna? Anne Schelle recently wrote a letter explaining the need for DRM to help protect free OTA TV.

Here is how NextGen TV Descries the need for encryption of free OTA TV with ATSC 3.0 in a release sent to Cord Cutters News:

Leading Edge Security

Developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard features vastly superior performance for broadcasters and viewers alike, and it also integrates technologies common in the telecommunications and internet industries. Along with improved reception, interactivity and advanced emergency information capability comes a security mechanism to prevent disruptions and content theft.

While pay-TV services like cable and satellite have been protected networks for some time, the reality is that nearly every website uses a seamless signing and authentication process to ensure consumers get what they’re expecting and hackers are kept out. Now, over-the-air TV broadcasting will finally have enhanced security just like many websites.

This security upgrade for television broadcasters is important since unprotected signals can easily be intercepted, “deep faked” and redistributed without permission. Courts have shut down these illegal schemes but it took years and cost the industry millions. Preventing this problem in advance can be accomplished with the essential security protocols and capabilities inherent in ATSC 3.0. Broadcasters must plan to take advantage of these capabilities to protect their signals and their content. These security safeguards will keep hacking and unauthorized redistribution at bay while giving consumers better pictures and enhanced audio.

Secure and Protected

Thankfully, the security layer already included in NEXTGEN TV is being enabled now and is supported by all of the television manufacturers selling NEXTGEN TV-certified receivers. The first upgrade accessory device, an ADTH receiver powered by certified Tolka software, is the first of several to win the NEXTGEN TV certification mark. Details for the consumer products can be found at The new security protocols are managed by the ATSC 3.0 security authority, A3SA.

With ATSC 3.0, broadcasters have access to layered security. This includes end-to-end encryption and secure delivery protocols, much like HTTPS that secures our internet browsing. Implementing these technologies makes the broadcast data resistant to spoofing or hijacking, making hijacking incidents much less likely. These technologies are invisible to the consumer, who simply tunes a channel like before to enjoy favorite shows.

While the enhanced security of ATSC 3.0 is a significant advantage for broadcasters, viewers can also reap substantial benefits by gaining easy access to great content that is distributed over-the-air for free. Along with a free broadcast rides an invisible layer of security.

If you are responsible for an ATSC 3.0 Host Station, then you are the first line of defense for keeping out the bad actors by ensuring then your transmission is encrypted and secure. Enabling security is the first step in preventing the theft of a broadcaster’s high-value content and delivering to viewers the free over-the-air TV they want to enjoy.

Over the next year, more TVs and new tuners with the ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV tuners with DRM support will hit the market. Soon the DRM problem won’t be here, but for now, it is a problem we will have to continue to work through.

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