New DVR / Gateway Rules Announced for ATSC 3.0

On Monday, the A3SA announced new DRM rules for the emerging ATSC 3.0 TV standard. While the announcement on the surface looked encouraging, digging deeper reveals that these rules will not solve the issues the broadcast industry created by encrypting over the air signals. You can see an analysis in my latest video.

For the uninitiated, ATSC 3.0 is a new over the air TV standard that will soon replace the current ATSC 1.0 broadcast technology. Broadcasters added a digital rights management (DRM) feature into the new standard in an effort to prevent third parties from re-transmitting these signals over the Internet.

While it likely won’t stop piracy what it has been doing so far is preventing legitimate antenna television watchers from viewing the ATSC 3 signals – especially those of us who use a gateway device like the HDhomerun or Tablo. These devices allow a single antenna connection to bring over the air television to just about any device in the home with a screen. Encrypted channels don’t work with these gateway devices at the moment.

The A3SA’s press release, while not revealing the entire standard due to its proprietary nature, hints at significant changes that will restore network DVR functionality and will allow for in-home streaming from a gateway device to a software or hardware based video player like a phone, tablet, set top box and smart TV.

A3SA also says that the addition to the standard will also follow the “broadcast encoder rules” which allow for the freedoms we currently enjoy with over-the-air content, like recording, skipping ads, and no retention limits.

But there’s a catch .. the broadcast encoder rules are rules established by the industry, not the FCC or Congress. Additionally broadcasters are only required to abide by these rules so long as the encrypted ATSC 3.0 channel is simulcast with the older ATSC 1.0 version. After that they could do a rug pull and severely limit what TV viewers can do in the home with their recordings.

Device compatibility is another pressing issue. The announcement mentions support for platforms like Android, Fire TV, Roku, webOS, and Tizen but leaves out significant players like Windows and Mac PCs and gaming consoles like the Xbox and Playstation. And their support for Apple devices is, in their words, “in process” and not yet finalized.

As I have been detailing over the last several months the broadcast industry’s desire to encrypt all of their signals risks ruining the future of over the air television. DRM has added nothing of value to consumers and has only made the process of watching TV unnecessarily complex.

We need to keep the pressure on. Please be sure to contact the FCC and make your voice heard!