Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

26 August 2021

Fox equips ATSC 3.0 lighthouse with Synamedia bulb 

With the ATSC 2021 NextGen Broadcast Conference taking place this week in-person, we were quietly confident of receiving some significant news to fill the pages of our final issue of summer, despite the ATSC 3.0 industry’s penchant for disappointment.

Fox Television Stations and Synamedia have come up with the goods – announcing that Fox’s Orlando-based station WRBW will serve as the broadcaster’s ATSC 3.0 lighthouse from where it can host infrastructure from other participating stations. The name is fittingly ironic, as the ATSC 3.0 hybrid broadcast-broadband community (which is targeting a market of increasingly confused consumers) has been screaming out for a guiding light.

One thing is certain – Pearl TV has failed miserably at that role. It reminded us of when Synamedia collaborated with Pearl TV for the first time in early 2020, joining the Phoenix Model Market Initiative – the group pushing a single-market philosophy for the US DTT standard employing an IP backbone. Faultline said at the time it was strange that Synamedia had changed its tune from apathy about these ATSC 3.0 trials to jumping into bed with Pearl TV and its broadcaster partners in the space of just a few months. We therefore saw Synamedia’s arrival on the scene as something of a wrecking ball that would shake-up the structure of a group plagued by delays and desperate for direction.

We hoped Synamedia would serve as a catalyst at the same time, hurrying things along from the ground up – providing there was enough of the pie to make it worth Synamedia’s while.

Everything has been building up to this latest point. For Synamedia, Fox’s signature must easily be the UK software vendor’s biggest ATSC 3.0 deal to date, although with ATSC 3.0 not exactly known for its snappiness, we suspect this project has been bubbling away for a while.

What is being installed is a blend of Synamedia’s ATSC 3.0 Broadcast technology and Triveni Digital’s ATSC 3.0 encoding expertise. The latter is synonymous with NextGen TV, while the former includes Synamedia’s virtual Digital Content Manager (vDCM) for encoding and transcoding of MPEG-2, AVC and HEVC video formats, plus statmux, splicing, and ad insertion.

Crucially, Synamedia’s Vivid compression technology is also brought to the table to free up the bandwidth required to launch new ATSC 3.0 services by repacking existing ATSC 1.0 signals.

Synamedia has been relatively quiet on the ATSC 3.0 front since its May 2020 virtual press conference when the firm revealed details of a three-way partnership with Triveni Digital and French electronics maker Thomson Broadcast. The tie-up saw Synamedia’s encoding and packaging capabilities work with Triveni Digital’s GuideBuilder and Broadcast Gateway, along with Thomson’s tower transmission products for on-prem and cloud-based ATSC 3.0 deployments.

Fox’s WRBW deployment is the first public result of Synamedia’s collaboration with Triveni Digital, although Thomson Broadcast evidently didn’t make the cut in the Fox hunt.

Last year’s event coincided with the launch of Synamedia’s first professional ATSC 3.0 receiver, allowing MVPDs to receive signals from broadcast stations and start exploring new augmented services, or to check out what 4K or enhanced signals can bring to set tops. They can do this at their own pace, and can use Synamedia’s ATSC 3.0 receiver as a bridge.

It appears an evolution of this product is being used by Fox, deploying Synamedia’s Media Edge Gateway ATSC 3.0 Receiver (presumably an upgraded version after some 15 months of tweaking) which handles broadcast quality signal reception for monitoring and acceptance testing of ATSC 3.0 signals.

This is where Triveni Digital’s GuideBuilder comes in, baked into its ATSC 3.0 Broadcast Gateway schedule. As you might have guessed, this schedules ATSC 3.0 services, supporting ROUTE and MMTP (MPEG media transport protocol) encapsulation to simplify the implementation and management of revenue-enhancing ATSC 3.0 services. Triveni’s GuideBuilder XM ATSC 3.0 Transport Encoder provides means for managing ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 metadata. Usually the StreamScope XM ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 Combo Analyzer is also installed, for performing the necessary RF and IP measurements required for service quality assurance, as it does for the likes of Hearst Television.

Fox’s WRBW in Orlando follows closely behind four Indianapolis-based TV stations which went live with NextGen TV services earlier in August, after months of planning led by data broadcasting services provider BitPath. WRTV (ABC), WTTK (CBS), WTHR (NBC), and WXIN (Fox) are now using ATSC 3.0 technology, with features varying by device as new IP-based broadcast functionalities remain in development.