Thinking of buying a new TV this "Black Friday" or holiday season? There's some new TV technology that could sway your decision on what model to buy.
NextGen TV, which delivers 4K broadcasts, surround sound and web-like content, has begun rolling out across the U.S. Currently, more than a dozen cities in the U.S. have TV stations broadcasting these new improved TV signals.
More than 20 markets are expected to be on the air by the end of the year and there are 20 different TVs with the tuners needed to handle the signal already in stores.
So far, most of the broadcasts are high-definition TV broadcasts with improved audio. Cities where NextGen TV signals are being broadcast will begin to see a new on-air commercial with the approach of the holiday shopping season, a common time for new TV purchases.
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"We are really promoting this new experience we are delivering improving on live linear broadcast (TV)," said Anne Schelle, managing director of Pearl TV, a consortium of more than 750 stations owned by major TV broadcasters including Cox, Hearst, Meredith, Sinclair and Tegna. "We are coming out with what we call a basic level television service but that will continue to improve … (with) new features and functions as more gets produced in a NextGen TV format.”
What is NextGen TV?
The latest advance in TV broadcast signals can include 4K video, which is four times higher resolution than high-definition, with high dynamic range (HDR), for improved contrast and a wider range of richer colors. Improved sound options include Dolby surround sound. A sound improvement currently being deployed is Voice Plus to enhance programming dialogue.
NextGen TV is based on the Advanced Television System Committee's ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, which has been in development for about seven years. The standard also allows broadcasters to deliver content through the internet such as news and sports data and alerts, to home TVs.
How do I get NextGen TV?
Initially, the signals will be available over the air, picked up by antenna and handled by a NextGen TV tuner within newer televisions. Currently, stations in cities including Austin, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah, are broadcasting signals. Other cities including Raleigh, North Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia, are expected to begin broadcasting soon. (For a complete list of cities and the rollout go to watchnextgentv.com.)
New TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony can be purchased now with built-in NextGen TV tuners; more TV makers are expected to have models available soon. Prices for compatible TVs start below $1,000 and, on bigger sets, go beyond $10,000. But if you are buying a new TV and you live in a market planning to expand its NextGen TV offerings, this is a way to future-proof your purchase.
There will also be set-top box receivers that can handle NextGen TV signals, too. An example: the ZapperBox ($249, due in February 2021).
Plans are for pay-TV systems to distribute NextGen TV, too, but these signals are not required to be carried by TV providers as digital TV signals were in the transition from analog signals a decade ago. For instance, Boise, Idaho, broadcaster Evoca is using NextGen TV to send subscription channels over-the-air.
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Do I need NextGen TV?
Need? Nah. But depending on where you live – and if you already use an over-the-air antenna – you might want to take advantage of it.
Initially, there won't likely be a lot of 4K content, but that will come as networks begin distributing 4K programming such as movies and live sports. As NextGen TV networks are built out, the signals can be more robust than current digital TV signals, too. Local stations can enhance their broadcasts with real-time news and sports data and alerts, as well as interactive features.
Broadcast TV faces challenges maintaining relevancy with a public that continues to embrace streaming. More than 15% of U.S. homes currently use an antenna to get live TV broadcasts – and more than half of those homes use over-the-air TV to supplement streaming content, according to Nielsen.
At The Diffusion Group, Michael Greeson, president and co-founder of the research firm, thinks the pandemic has increased antenna usage even more. Purchase of an antenna to get live TV broadcasts rose 10% since the pandemic began in March 2020, the firm estimates. Homes already using an antenna should be aware of NextGen TV, especially if they are TV shopping in the near future.
When asked to what extent over-the-air TV broadcasts met their household’s viewing needs, 72% were moderately to completely satisfied. "It may not be a perfect solution, but it appears adequate for most users," Greeson said.
Homes that already have an antenna should keep NextGen's potential in mind, especially if they are considering buying a new TV – and live in a market supporting the format.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm for NextGen, but there’s also a lot of questions about the whole nature of what is going to attract customers and what the broadcast industry can afford to install,” said Gary Arlen, a telecommunications and media analyst and president of Arlen Communications in Bethesda, Md.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TV shopping this Black Friday? What you need to know about NextGen