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ATSC exec says rumors of Samsung, Sony dropping NextGen TV tuners are unfounded

Two articles published by TechRadar and Next TV contain unsourced speculation that the manufacturers might follow LG's lead in removing NextGen TV tuners from future television sets.

Two articles published by TechRadar and Next TV contain unsourced speculation that the manufacturers might follow LG's lead in removing NextGen TV tuners from future television sets.

(Still frame via NextGen TV/Pearl TV, Graphic by The Desk)
(Still frame via NextGen TV/Pearl TV, Graphic by The Desk)

A top official at the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) says they are unaware of any plans by Sony and Samsung to drop ATSC 3.0 tuners from future models of their smart television sets.

Last week, rumors began to swirl that the two electronics companies might drop support for ATSC 3.0 — commonly known by the consumer brand name NextGen TV — after LG announced plans to remove support for ATSC 3.0 broadcasts in its 2024 TV models.

LG made the decision following an unfavorable outcome in a civil lawsuit filed by Constellation Designs, which convinced a jury in July that LG’s ATSC 3.0 tuners infringed on some of its patents.

The patent dispute was first highlighted in an article published by TechRadar, a technology publication owned by British media conglomerate Future, which speculated that “other leading manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung, choose to follow LG’s lead and suspend their ATSC plans then it could deliver a serious body blow to the emerging TV technology.”

The TechRadar article didn’t explain how it reached the conclusion that Sony or Samsung might drop support for NextGen TV, nor did the article say whether the writer reached out to anyone at either company about the matter. The rumor was picked up more broadly after TechRadar’s sister publication, Next TV, amplified the claim that “Samsung and Sony could follow” in pulling ATSC 3.0 support from their TV sets — though, like the TechRadar article, it appears no one at Next TV reached out to Sony or Samsung to see if that was the case.

Representatives from Sony and Samsung did not respond to e-mails sent from The Desk asking if either company was committed to maintaining support for ATSC 3.0 in their TV sets. But Madeleine Noland, the president of the ATSC, said she’s heard nothing from either Samsung or Sony about plans to pull support for NextGen TV, and said reports to that effect were speculative.

In an email to The Desk, Noland suggested the situation involving LG might be a simple matter of changing a supplier of ATSC 3.0-related hardware, and that the move could be done in time for LG to once again offer support for ATSC 3.0 in its TV sets by 2025. The theory was based on a note she read from an analyst, as well as a mention of a particular electronics supplier in the LG lawsuit.

“But, to be 100 percent clear, that scenario is just speculation based on connecting some dots, and the train of logic behind it may well be flawed,” Noland acknowledged. “We only know what we know, [and] it underscores that no one has enough information to make predictions. Any claims at this point as to what might happen next can be characterized as speculation, unless someone cites a specific source of additional information that I’m not aware of. In the absence of a new, credible source, I think we all need to wait and see.”

Samsung has offered NextGen TV tuners in its sets since 2020, with Sony making the same move one year later. While naysayers suggest ATSC 3.0 might already be doomed, there are signs that more TV makers are embracing NextGen TV rather than leaving it behind: Two weeks ago, Chinese electronics firm TCL announced it was joining the ATSC 3.0 patent pool organized by the Via Licensing Alliance, an apparent first step toward incorporating NextGen TV technology into future models of its TV sets sold in North America. And several companies are selling, or planning to sell, standalone set-top boxes that allow older TV sets to receive ATSC 3.0 signals — similar to those analog-to-digital converter boxes that were given out more than a decade ago.

The speculation surrounding what TV set makers may or may not do with respect to ATSC 3.0 adds to a growing list of rumors and misinformation surrounding NextGen TV as officials with the ATSC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the broadcast consortium called Pearl TV continue to develop and market the standard as a more-advanced alternative to the current digital technology used by broadcasters.

Over the past several months, the FCC has received hundreds of comments from TV viewers over plans to incorporate digital rights management (DRM) technology into NextGen TV broadcast signals. The comments were fueled by bloggers and YouTubers who speculated that the DRM technology was intended to prevent TV viewers from recording ATSC 3.0 broadcast signals.

Proponents of NextGen TV say that isn’t the case: Instead, the DRM technology is intended to ensure only authorized users are receiving ATSC 3.0 signals, while preventing those who live outside a particular viewing area or who are using devices with counterfeit technology from decoding those same signals.

Last month, the group responsible for implementing DRM on NextGen TV signals, called A3SA, affirmed new rules that require broadcasters with ATSC 3.0 signals to allow viewers to record those broadcasts if they also maintain a simulcast of their programming on the older ATSC 1.0 standard, according to a slide deck obtained by The Desk.

The new rule essentially covers every TV station in America, whether they encrypt their signals or not, since NextGen TV broadcasters are required by the FCC to maintain a simulcast of their main programming feed over the next several years.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).