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Alex Butterfield

Broadcast TV Tech: The United States Might Be Falling Behind South Korea

Photo courtesy: Alex Butterfield


Earlier this year, South Korea started broadcasting television in ATSC 3.0. What exactly is ATSC 3.0? It’s an upgrade over ATSC 1.0, a standard of broadcast television that’s been around for nearly a decade. While ATSC 1.0 broadcasts in 1080i and 720p (along with full HD 1080p, at times), ATSC 3.0 allows for 4K video quality.


If you’ve seen 4K televisions, it’s a big deal to have the ATSC 3.0 switch. 4K picture is noticeably crisp and it almost looks like you’re there. However, those that have a 4K television (in the United States, it’s under 20%) don’t have any television to watch in the ultra high definition (UHD) quality.


Netflix and Amazon Prime are among the two outlets offering 4K viewing (for some of their shows and movies). You can also buy 4K UHD Blu-ray movies and television shows to view on a 4K television. Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One X even offers full 4K gaming with HDR. These alone make the upgrade worth it, but cable and satellite television in the United States hasn’t made the switch to 4K yet.


South Korea making the switch to ATSC shows that it could be coming soon, however. (Or it could mean the United States is surprisingly falling behind, in terms this technology.) Fox Sports actually began broadcasting some 4K content on DirecTV, and DirecTV has a couple of full-time channels in 4K (basically documentaries, movies, and original content). It might not be for a few years until the United States is able to make the switch to allow for everything to be in 4K.


A full-time switch will require will require a standard change to ATSC 3.0, as well as cable and television companies buying the necessary equipment (cameras, cables, etc.) required to broadcast in 4K ultra HD. Companies like LG (a South Korean company) certainly have the requisite features in their televisions to allow consumers to watch 4K content. And as people continue to buy 4K televisions and it becomes the majority, more and more will want to watch everything in 4K.


Now it’s just up to the FCC and others to get moving and make it happen.


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