NextGen TV promises better picture and sound quality for free with an antenna, but it's still bleeding-edge tech.
For years now, the broadcast TV industry has been talking up plans to overhaul over-the-air TV with a new standard called ATSC 3.0.
Also known as NextGen TV, ATSC 3.0 can deliver 4K HDR video, enhanced dialog, on-demand viewing options, and potentially better reception, all for free with an antenna. Stations in 46 U.S. markets are now broadcasting in the new standard, covering nearly half the United States, with dozens more markets to come throughout 2022.
But before you buy into the hype and shop for compatible TVs or tuner boxes, keep in mind that NextGen TV is still bleeding-edge technology, and broadcasters have yet to realize its biggest benefits. As I wrote last year and the year before, most antenna users can safely leave ATSC 3.0 out of their cord-cutting plans for now, even if it’s something to keep an eye on for the future.
NextGen TV’s 2022 updates
ATSC 3.0 is currently top of mind thanks to CES, the annual tech industry trade show where major TV manufacturers announce new products. This year’s big ATSC 3.0 news is that Hisense will include ATSC 3.0 tuners in most of its upcoming ULED TVs, becoming the fourth TV maker to support the new standard, and the first that wasn’t an original sponsor of the standard.
This week, Nuvyyo also announced an ATSC 3.0 version of its Tablo Quad HDMI over-the-air DVR coming this spring; but at $300, it’s $100 pricier than the ATSC 1.0 version. Unlike Tablo’s existing HDMI models, it’s also unable to stream video onto other devices around the house due to technical complexities, though Nuvyyo says it might add that capability in the future.
Nuvyyo CEO Grant Hall said he doesn’t want to discourage cord-cutters from buying Tablo’s ATSC 1.0 DVRs. The company is launching an ATSC 3.0 model largely to satisfy some early adopters and get first-hand experience with the technology as it emerges.
“We weren’t feeling a lot of heat that we had to have a product in the market,” Hall said. “It was more from a thought-leadership position.”
My advice, then, is similar to what it was a year ago: If you’re already planning to buy a new TV or over-the-air TV, and an ATSC 3.0 model fits within your budget, there’s little harm in future proofing. But don’t go out of your way to upgrade to a standard that’s still in its infancy. Your current over-the-air TV setup will remain viable for years to come.