2024 will be a major year for the new over-the-air TV standard ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV. ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV has a ton of promise and many great features like better range and the possibility of free 4K TV with your antenna. But ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV also comes with digital rights management (DRM). This has resulted in many cord cutters not being able to enjoy free OTA TV, and, if they can, it makes it a lot harder than the older ATSC 1.0 standard.
ATSC 3.0 offers better coverage, better picture, and even better sound, but the addition of DRM and the inability for some cord cutting devices like the HDHomeRun to decode DRM has become a major issue for some cord cutters.
Even one of the founders of the ATSC 3.0 standard LG has recently stopped making TVs with ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV built in because it is in the middle of a court case over it. Earlier this year, LG lost a patent case from a company claiming to hold patents over some of the technology included in ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV.
Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty over patents with the Nextgen ATSC. Now that LG lost its case with Constellation Designs, LLC, it says it would have to pay an extra 125% in patent fees for every ATSC 3.0 Nextgen TV it sells.
“This challenging and uncertain patent landscape has forced LG to make the difficult decision to suspend the inclusion of ATSC 3.0-compatibility in its 2024 television lineup for the United States. This decision was not made lightly, because LG has been a vocal ATSC 3.0 advocate, a strong supporter of local broadcasters, and a leading developer of television products with the latest NEXTGEN TV technologies. Going forward, LG will, of course, continue to monitor the patent landscape and its effect on LG’s own product roadmap and overall industry dynamics.” LG said in a statement to the FCC.
LG stopping its plans to include ATSC 3.0 in 2024 TV has many worried about what is next for ATSC 3.0.
What is happening with the DRM issues with ATSC 3.0?
ATSC 3.0 DRM Is Broken on Many New TVs
One of the biggest arguments by the team behind ATSC 3.0 is that many new live TVs sold have the ability to decode DRM. But, according to a recent report by the Antenna Man on YouTube the DRM on many of these TVs is broken. Consequently, TVs that are certified to work with ATSC 3.0 are unable to decode the DRM for 3.0 OTA TV. Even if they can decode the DRM, it will often result in the TV freezing and being unable to show the channel.
Pearl TV, the team behind ATSC 3.0, has confirmed these issues and says that updates should fix this issue. Yet for months major companies have been aware of these issues and have yet to fix them. “While broadcasters are evaluating a very few isolated cases of software issues, we’re not aware of any widespread reception problems with NEXTGEN TV that is enabled with over-the-air content protection. There may be cases where consumers need to download a software update for their set—not because of content protection, but for bug fixes or feature enhancements.”
The other issue with many of these new TVs is they are more expensive than, for example, the popular Roku TVs that currently do not have ATSC 3.0.
No Network Tuner Support for ATSC 3.0 DRM
The other big issue is the ATSC 3.0 DRM won’t work with network tuners like Tablo DVRs and HDHomeRun. That means you will be unable to stream your antenna to multiple TVs inside your home. Instead, you will need to have an antenna connected to each TV you own. For many that may be difficult because your TV may be in the basement or in a hard-to-get to location like a rooftop according to Lon.TV.
Many ATSC 3.0 DRM Tuners Need Internet
One other big issue is that many of these devices that have DRM support for ATSC 3.0 need an always-on internet connection. This means if your internet goes out during severe weather, your free TV will also stop working and you will lose access to important weather information from local TV stations.
Putting all this together, what was once easy to use with free over-the-air TV is now a lot harder thanks to DRM in ATSC 3.0.
So, will 2024 be the year ATSC 3.0 addresses many of these major issues facing consumers? Or will 2024 be the year consumers walk away from it? We will have to wait and see what happens.