Thursday, January 6, 2022

Next Gen TV

There are reports that half of the USA will be in range of at least one TV station with Next Gen TV (ATSC 3.0) by the end of 2022. That's a good thing. Well, I suppose it is. Next Gen TV is supposed to be wonderful and offer all kind of great things. The biggie is 4K TV over the air. There's also Dolby AC-4 (7.1.4, Atmos). Other stuff, too. The big thing is the TV broadcast could look and sound better. If you have the right equipment.

Now, if you are a streamer, and only a streamer, this doesn't really matter. Your streaming services will deal with all of that. But, if you do use an antenna, it might make a difference.

I'll use my current situation as an example. In one of the rooms, I have an HD TV with Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Fire TV devices attached. I do not have an antenna attached to that TV. There's more to this, but keeping it simple, let's say that's the extent of it. In that case, Next Gen TV won't mean a thing for that TV.

Let's suppose I upgrade that TV to a new 4K TV. Next Gen TV still won't make a difference, since there's no antenna attached.

So now let's add an antenna. Am I good to go with the new Next Gen TV features? No.

The problem isn't the antenna. A TV antenna is a TV antenna. The old antennae that worked for the analog VHF and UHF stations work for digital/HD VHF and UHF. There's no such thing as an "HD TV antenna." It's a TV antenna. All that "HD TV antenna" stuff is marketing, not reality. Nothing special is needed to pick up HD TV signals. And that will remain true for Next Gen TV. The same antenna will work. The same antenna that used to pick up new episodes of "I Love Lucy" and "Gunsmoke" will work today, and will work with Next Gen TV. You will not need a new antenna. But you might need a new TV. Or at least a new tuner.

Remember when things transitioned over to digital from the old analog TV? Remember those boxes you could request and took forever to arrive so you went to Walmart and bought your own anyway for about $40? Remember that? Yeah, look for that again. Only since the switch to Next Gen TV is voluntary, and since TV stations will still broadcast in ATSC 1.0 for years after switching, if you want to take advantage of Next Gen TV, you'll have to buy a converter box. Or a new TV.

Now, in my situation, I do have an antenna, but it's not connected to any TV. Rather, it's connected to a Tablo device, which puts it on the network for all my TVs. There's also an Air TV device connected that does the same thing. So what then? Well, I'll need to replace those devices since they don't support Next Gen TV (ATSC 3.0). Tablo has introduced a Next Gen TV version that works with both the current ATSC 1.0 and the new ATSC 3.0 (Next Gen TV). Which costs about $60 more than the current top of the line device.

So, what should you do? If you're not in range of a station currently or soon broadcasting in ATSC 3.0/Next Gen TV, then you really don't need to do anything. If you need to buy a new TV, do consider getting one that is compatible.

If you don't have an antenna, or don't plan to get an antenna, you really don't need to do anything. This whole Next Gen TV thing only matters if you are able to pick up an ATSC 3.0 signal. No antenna, no picking up the signal.

But, if you have an antenna, you'll want to keep Next Gen TV in mind when you do buy a TV, or if you buy a Tablo or Air TV device. Right now, there is no Air TV device that's compatible, and only one expensive Tablo device that is compatible. I don't know when Air TV might start their jump onto the Next Gen TV bandwagon.

Of course, if you don't use an antenna, and aren't looking to add one soon, Next Gen TV doesn't make a difference to your Streaming Life.

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