Top Local TV Groups Upgrade To “Next-Generation” TV Technology In Las Vegas

A simulcast of the 2016 World Series used ATSC 3.0 broadcast technology. Phil Long/AP/Shutterstock

After years of anticipation, “next-generation” broadcast technology made its full-time debut Tuesday on Las Vegas stations owned by Nexstar Media Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and E.W. Scripps.

Sinclair’s NBC affiliate, KSNV, and CW affiliate, KVCW; Nexstar’s CBS affiliate, KLAS; and Scripps’ ABC station KTNV are now fully equipped with ATSC 3.0 tools. The new broadcast standard emulates the way internet and digital services are delivered, opening up possibilities for a range of audio and video enhancements, including personalization and 5G applications.

Station owners have touted the technology for years as a way they can stay relevant in a competitive media landscape, but implementation has moved gradually due to technological, financial and regulatory considerations. Next-gen setups have been demonstrated and tested in the U.S. but rolled out permanently only in international markets

Local stations still generate significant cash flows and advertising revenue, especially in election years, and they retain significance for stakeholders like broadcast networks, ad buyers and sports leagues. But their footing has grown less secure as the traditional potency of 6PM and 11PM local newscasts has dwindled, with streaming, on-demand and mobile offerings luring away audiences.

The Las Vegas launch followed more than a year of efforts involving the station groups, local staffers and BitPath (formerly Spectrum Co.), the firm spearheading the development of new data broadcasting services. BitPath and industry consortium Pearl TV are working together to accelerate the rollout of “Next Gen” TV across the country.

ATSC 3.0 will also bring about an update of the traditional emergency alert system. The new alerts, currently in development, will enhance the broadcasting of safety information, a function of stations long touted by trade groups and owners, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The four Las Vegas stations will preserve their existing programming lineups during the implementation of ATSC 3.0 for all viewers, regardless of whether they get signals via cable, satellite or over-the-air via an antenna. Over-the-air viewers will need to rescan their TV sets, while cable and satellite viewers will not need to take any action.

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