About a year ago, as we were deep in the weeds of the development of the Next Gen TV standard, ATSC 3.0, we identified the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as an ideal event to showcase the capabilities of what the standard could do. We knew we were in the “short rows” of completing the standard and thought it might be perfect timing. Since the germination of that idea, the FCC approved the standard for use in November, and the ATSC completed its core work and finalized the standard in January. The timing worked out better than initially imagined.
The Olympics as an event also checked several boxes for combining broadcast with broadband to offer new Next Gen TV experiences:
- Spectacular live coverage from a storied network, NBC
- Beautiful imagery and action, which makes for amazing video and superb storytelling
- Data-rich sports content for interactive experiences
- Numerous sports and athletes enabling customizable content options
- A library of VOD content that continually expands as the event progresses
- The date was far enough out that we could hopefully develop and execute a solid plan, but close enough to apply real pressure on everyone to develop solutions to existing issues
To quote Col. John “Hannibal” Smith from the NBC hit show from the 80’s, The A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
For this plan to come together, I have to offer a HUGE thanks to the leadership at NBC for sharing the vision and passion to offer the Olympics in Next Gen TV and to WRAL-TV for the engineering and technical expertise to pull it off. WRAL’s experimental station proved the perfect place for such pioneering work. I also need to recognize So Vang, NAB’s VP of Advanced Technology, for his work with the PILOT home gateway and interactive applications.
There is nothing like a pending event to make things happen, and there are few pending events larger than the Olympics. It was “crunch time” and the pressure was on to deliver. Working together with so many other ecosystem partners, we were able to really push the industry forward and break some new ground as we began to implement and exercise the standard. For example, this event delivered the first ever successful over-the-air broadcast and reception of the new Dolby AC-4 audio format. Everyone also learned from the effort, creating a positive feedback loop for future development.
We engaged the entire Next Gen TV ecosystem and created partnerships with a stretch goal of producing a live event where people could see and experience the new technology firsthand. It proved to be a huge success.
Here are some of the Next Gen TV solutions that were exhibited:
- Consumer display products from LG Electronics and Samsung
- Prototype home gateways from ETRI and PILOT
- Mobile reception dongle receiver for tablets by ETRI
- 4K UHD video feed featuring high dynamic range and wide color gamut from NBC
- Multiple Physical Layer Pipes (PLPs) utilizing Layered Division Multiplexing (LDM)
- Reception of the new Dolby AC-4 audio format
- Interactive HTML5 applications from WRAL and PILOT
- Electronic Program Guide
- VOD content library
- Weather application
- Customizable sport and athlete trackers
- Customizable real-time medal count by country
- Advanced Emergency Alerting from AWARN and LG
- Professional reception and analysis equipment from ETRI and Triveni
- Broadcast transmission equipment from Triveni, DS Broadcast, GatesAir, Enensys, Ateme, Electronics Research Inc., Harmonic and Dolby.
To be sure, everything did not go perfectly, and there were a number of bumps along the way. However, the team persevered, learned and overcame obstacles to deliver a great experience for the hundreds of folks wanting to see what all the buzz was about. Those lessons learned are also part of the success. They enable everyone to take that next step and advance the implementation of the standard even further.
And that next step is coming soon in Las Vegas. Yes, I’m talking about the NAB Show, April 7-12. We will have an official ATSC showcase in the Central Lobby of the Convention Center, several demonstrations from PILOT in Futures Park and perhaps even a surprise or two. See ya there!