Wow. The roadmap sounds pretty underwhelming -- meaningful revenues for NextGen broadcasting are probably at least 5 years away. Sounds like a major chicken-and-egg scenario. Although saying that it will launch in 61 markets, including all of the top 40, in 2020 is something, I guess.
From a consumer perspective, I wonder if there's going to be any real incentive in 2020 or 2021 to get an ATSC 3.0 tuner. What might realistically be offered on those airwaves that's better than the existing 1.0? If a given market has, let's say, just one NextGen frequency in operation, that might carry the main .1 channel from 2, 3 or 4 different stations partnering up on it. It sounds like NBC, Fox, and especially PBS are on board to support 3.0, so maybe if your local affiliates for those nets are on your local 3.0 frequency, you'd get some 1080p HDR content. The article says that neither ABC nor CBS have expressed any public support for 3.0, so their content may not really look any better on their affiliates' 3.0 feeds as on their 1.0 feeds.
And if all 3.0 tuners are actually going to be hybrid 3.0/1.0 tuners (which is my understanding), then broadcasters know that early adopters will still be able to get all of their secondary diginet channels via 1.0. Would there be any reason to repeat those channels, which mainly feature classic TV series originally created in SD, on the shared 3.0 frequency? Maybe you'd see MeTV, which offers a 720p HD feed, simulcast on the 3.0 frequency.
Would there be any new diginets exclusive to 3.0 in a given market? Seems unlikely in the first couple years because it would reach such a small audience. Although maybe we'll see them try out subscription channels on 3.0, although the only candidate that seems at all likely to me there would be if Sinclair distributed their new Diamond Sports (formerly Fox Sports) RSNs there. (Hard to imagine HBO or Showtime or ESPN jumping on board OTA subscription distribution. And, yes, I'm aware of the failed AirBox venture.)
Here in Nashville, Sinclair owns three stations, two of which just got repacked and are operating at reduced power while they await new antenna installations. I suspect one of them -- probably WNAB, our CW affiliate -- will switch over to 3.0 in 2020. After its new antenna gets installed, WNAB is supposed to jump to 950 kW, a decent increase in power over where it had been prior to the repack. To maintain the same coverage area with 3.0 as with 1.0, the station would have a bitrate of about 26 Mbps on 3.0. That could support 5 stations running 1080p HDR (or SDR), as that level of picture quality is said to require about 5 Mbps
in the HEVC codec that 3.0 will use.
So what might be carried by WNAB if it goes 3.0? Maybe:
58.1 The CW (WNAB/Sinclair)
17.1 Fox (WZTV/Sinclair)
2.1 ABC (WKRN/Nexstar)
Diamond Sports South (Sinclair)
Diamond Sports Tennessee (Sinclair)
I'm putting our only local Nexstar station on there given Nexstar's established spectrum sharing arrangement with Sinclair.
If that's all that shows up on 3.0 around here next year, I won't be rushing out to get a tuner...