I discovered in the review that the ADTH is not protecting the HDMI output which is required according to the ATSC 3.0 DRM specifications. Some asked if recent firmware updates corrected this oversight.
After updating my box this morning my Windows laptop equipped with an Elgato Camlink USB HDMI capture device is still able to record encrypted stations:
I recently got my hands on the $99 ADTH NextGen TV Box, the first certified tuner for ATSC 3.0 NextgenTV broadcasts that supports channels encrypted with DRM. You can see it in action in my latest review.
The ADTH is a basic tuner that plays back live TV to the television connected to its HDMI port. There are no DVR capabilities, and it only has a single tuner on board. It runs on Android but boots directly into its TV watching app. Some viewers have been able to shoehorn other apps onto it, but their custom tv watching app is the only one that can interact with the onboard tuner.
The device has an ethernet port, Wi-Fi, an HDMI output that supports 4K televisions and HDR, an AV out for analog audio, and an optical audio out. It only plays back on the TV it’s connected to, so the wifi and ethernet are used only for firmware and DRM decryption (more on that below). The antenna port is where you connect your antenna for receiving broadcasts. It supports AC4 audio decoding, making it compatible with older televisions.
The interface is incredibly Spartan. When you boot it up, it takes you directly to the TV viewing app. The channel guide is very limited, and the remote control is as basic as it gets, with no numbers on it. You’ll have to navigate through the channel guide or use the channel up and down buttons to find the channel you want to watch.
But the elephant in the room is the ADTH’s DRM playback capabilities. In my market, my NBC and CBS affiliates have both encrypted their ATSC 3.0 signals. And the ADTH is able to tune into them – provided I have an active Internet connection to do it. While I was able to take the box off the Internet without interrupting playback, it did require an active connection before I could switch to another encrypted channel.
This raises concerns about how the emergency broadcast system will work in the future if everything is encrypted and requires an internet connection for over the air content to play back.
Interestingly, this box allows you to directly capture footage out of the HDMI port on encrypted channels. I was able to capture the footage directly using my Elgato 4K USB capture dongle which does not allow capturing of encrypted HDCP HDMI signals. I tested a few other capture boards that restrict HDCP content and all of those worked too.
The broadcast industry, through an organization called Pearl TV, is forcing manufacturers to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to certify their players to protect the signal all the way to the television. This includes ensuring that even the HDMI signal is protected – yet this box was released without proper protection? This raises questions about just how serious broadcasters are in protecting their signals vs. trying to steer customers into expensive subscription streaming plans.
All that said the ADTH experience wasn’t all that great when it did successfully decrypt a channel. I encountered occasional playback issues where the video would start to stutter after a while but then correct itself. At this time the box does not have a signal strength meter so I was unable to determine if it was the signal or something else.
Channel surfing is also not fluid; there’s a long delay and a buffer before the channel starts playing. This delay is even longer for the DRM channels as it has to go out to the internet first to get its decryption keys.
If you’re looking to watch live TV that is encrypted via the new ATSC 3 DRM, this device will allow you to watch those channels. However, it only works on the TV it’s connected to, and the tuning quality is not as good as other options like the Zapperbox or the HDHomeRun. The ADTH also confirms my beliefe that DRM is completely unnecessary, especially given that they didn’t even bother to lock out its HDMI port from allowing direct video capture.
I’ve been deeply involved in raising awareness about the broadcast industry’s intentions to encrypt free over-the-air television. Recent developments have shown that the situation with DRM encryption is eve worse than I initially thought. You can see more in my latest video.
Our collective efforts to inform the FCC about these concerns have been fruitful. Since my last update, the number of comments and filings on the FCC’s official transition docket has significantly increased. This surge in participation is heartening, but there’s still a long way to go. I urge everyone to continue voicing their concerns.
However, there’s concerning news on the horizon. Despite promises from Pearl TV, the organization behind this initiative, it seems that even certified devices can’t decrypt DRM protected content. This revelation comes as Silicondust, the makers of the HDHomerun, now have certified firmware for their hardware and apps – yuet those apps cannot decrypt the DRM content.
Thankfully, the security layer already included in NEXTGEN TV is being enabled now and is supported by all of the television manufacturers selling NEXTGEN TV-certified receivers.
A recent article by Jared Newman from Tech Hive further delved into the intricacies of this DRM. Shockingly, broadcasters could potentially delete DVR recordings from your own server after a certain period of time or block the recording of content outright. And if you’re not using a television connected directly to an antenna an Internet connection will be required to watch live television – that includes smart TVs using an app, tablets, computers and other devices.
Additionally, there could be restrictions that effectively prevent out-of-home viewing from network tuners. This means that every time you watch television or a recording, you will have to disclose your physical location.
The industry’s justification for these restrictions revolves around concerns of copyright violations. However, it’s evident that the real motive might be to protect retransmission fees they collect from cable and streaming service subscribers. With many consumers cutting the cord due to exorbitant fees, broadcasters seem to be taking measures to protect their revenue streams.
The essence of free over-the-air TV must be preserved if broadcasters wish to continue using the public airwaves. Viewers shouldn’t be burdened with unnecessary limitations in an effort to force them into paying exorbitant subscription fees. It’s crucial to continue voicing our concerns and ensuring that the public’s best interests are upheld.
I’ll be back with more on this soon including a new effort we’ll be undertaking to let the industry know we’re not going to stand for this!
TechHive this week covered the issue with an extensive piece that uncovers just how restrictive the DRM will be:
For DVR, broadcasters can set expiration dates on recordings or even block them outright. It’s unclear if broadcasters will do this, but ATSC 3.0 gives them the capability.
ATSC 3.0’s DRM has latency restrictions that effectively block out-of-home viewing from networked tuners such as the HDHomeRun Flex 4K.
Users will need an internet connection to stream local broadcasts around the home, for instance from an HDHomeRun tuner to a Roku player, and an occasional internet connection might be required for external tuner boxes.
Recordings won’t work without the original tuner that captured the programming, effectively preventing users from transferring programs they’ve recorded on a DVR to other devices, such as a laptop or tablet for away-from-home viewing.
With an HDHomeRun tuner, third-party apps must get independently certified to play encrypted ATSC 3.0 content. It’s unclear if programs such as Channels and Plex will do so.
It’s clear to see that broadcasters are eager to only provide the bare minimum live viewing experience to antenna viewers who don’t want to pay their exorbitant broadcast fees.
Let’s not forget that these stations don’t own the public airwaves that they want to turn into a toll road. We the taxpayers do. How does this serve the public benefit?
Last week, I asked you to submit your thoughts to the FCC about why encrypting free over the air TV is a bad thing, and many of you have done so. We’ve seen some significant progress, and I want to share that with you in my latest video.
If you’re new to this topic, I recommend checking out my playlist with previous videos on this topic. The issue at hand is that broadcasters in the United States are encrypting their signals on the new ATSC 3 broadcast standard. This limits how you can watch and record television, essentially confining you to a television connected to a box, rather than the freedom we’re used to with our video consumption.
Here’s the latest on the campaign:
Our petition on change.org is nearing 7,500 signatures, and the momentum is still going strong. However, the most significant development is the increase in submissions to the FCC docket. Last week, the docket had 1,634 submissions. As of this morning, we have over 2,812 submissions, most of which are from concerned citizens like you. This is fantastic progress, and I want to thank everyone who has made submissions. If you haven’t yet, please consider doing so.
In terms of news, another network in my home state of Connecticut has joined the encryption club. WVIT-TV, Connecticut’s NBC affiliate, is now encrypting their broadcasts. They did this right in the middle of a recent severe weather event!
In other news, the company responsible for certifying devices for encryption, Pearl TV, has certified the Zinwell tuning box – the first box they’ve approved since rolling out encryption over a year ago. However, this box only allows you to watch the encrypted signals on a single television, with no recording or in-home streaming capabilities. And its price remains a mystery.
But there is some movement happening on the network tuner side. HDHomeRun devices have received a new firmware update that includes their Next-Gen TV certification release candidate. However, this doesn’t mean you can start watching encrypted channels just yet. The powers that be have to certify the HDHomerun to be able to decrypt content. Once they get approval, you’ll likely be able to watch these channels, but DVR capability is still a big question.
Unfortunately, this certification process and the ongoing cost of remaining compliant is likely out of reach for these groups, which could stifle innovation and competition in the cord cutting space.
The FCC reached out to me and is asking all of you who signed the petition to also file a comment in their docketing system for the ATSC 3 petition. This is very easy to do and will just take a few minutes. So far there are only about a dozen or so complaints filed. We can do better!!
2. On the first line for proceedings type in 16-142 . The system will then display the text “Authorizing Permissive Use of the “Next Generation” Broadcasting Television Standard.” Click on that to lock in the docket number. Here’s what it looks like:
3. Fill in your information. A US address is required and note that this will be part of the public record.
4. Write your comment in the comment section. It’s important to provide some detail especially how this change will make it difficult for YOU to consume over the air television.
Below is what I submitted, you are free to re-purpose this for your own submission but DO NOT COPY AND PASTE. The commission values feedback on how this transition will impact consumers and each unique story helps build the case better than a form letter.
I am writing in opposition to DRM Encryption being part of the ATSC 3.0 standard. Over the last several weeks broadcasters have aggressively rolled out encryption on their ATSC 3 signals throughout the United States. At the moment this restricts most currently available tuners from being able to tune ATSC 3 content.
The standard’s voluntary rollout began with much promise. Prior to ATSC 3 being enabled here in Connecticut I could not reliably receive ATSC 1.0 content. When ATSC 3 spun up last year I could finally receive reliable over the air signals at my home. That was until WFSB-TV encrypted their broadcast and I’m now blocked from watching that station.
Encrypting over the air signals goes against the spirit of serving the public’s interest. Encryption adds an additional and unnecessary point of failure for receiving important information during emergency situations.
There are anti-trust implications too. Encryption restricts the consumer’s right to watch content from the public airwaves using tuners and personal recording equipment of their choice. With ATSC 1.0 consumers have many choices for watching and recording over the air television. With ATSC 3 only equipment blessed by the broadcasters through an arduous, opaque and expensive process will be allowed to tune content. One broadcaster, E.W. Scripps, purchased a manufacturer of tuning and recording equipment giving Scripps an advantage in the marketplace over competing products.
The broadcasters have said encryption is important for copy protection or other nonsense about protection from hackers and “deep fakes.” But the reality is they are trying to protect broadcast retransmission fees that now make up a significant portion of their revenue.
Lawyers for the broadcasters have effectively stopped every large scale retransmission effort making encryption unnecessary to protect their broadcast exclusivity rights. What this is really about is making it more difficult for everyday consumers to watch free over the air TV in an effort to push us back onto paid subscription services.
You can also find what other people have submitted by visiting this link to browse through the public filings.
It’s really important if you care about this issue to make a submission. It doesn’t have to be long – just long enough for you to convey the impact that DRM encryption will have in accessing broadcasts on the public airwaves.
I still plan to drop this petition off with the FCC and congressional stakeholders in person with the Antenna Man. But the more of us who tell the FCC directly the better!
This week my local CBS affiliate, WFSB-TV, activated their ATSC 3.0 encryption making their signal inaccessible in my home with an HDHomerun tuner. And it’s not just here – broadcasters are accelerating the DRM roll-out all over the country in the hopes that no one will notice by the time they transition away from the current standard.
But we can put a stop to this. In my latest video I provide some more detail about this DRM problem, what it looks like when it hits your area, and direct you to my Change.org petition that I’ll personally deliver in Washington if we can get 25,000 signatures.
While devices currently locked out from playing this over-the-air content will likely get certified by the broadcasters to display it again, the time and cost of certification falls on the device manufacturer. Furthermore, broadcasters can revoke these licenses at any time, restricting entire families of devices from watching free over-the-air TV. I predict that even after certification, the ability to record, pause, rewind, or time-shift television shows will be significantly restricted.
Why are they doing this? It’s because broadcasters no longer rely solely on viewership for revenue; over half of their revenue comes from broadcast re-transmission fees they charge to cable, satellite and Internet providers. As more people cut the cord and forgo expensive streaming alternatives, there are fewer people paying the broadcast TV fees. This has led broadcasters to restrict access to free over-the-air television, pushing consumers towards subscription services.
In response to this issue, I’ve started a Change.org petition to raise awareness among members of Congress and consumer organizations. If the petition reaches 25,000 signatures I will personally bring it down to DC to deliver to US senators and the FCC.
Let’s not forget that the airwaves broadcasters in the US benefit from belong to the public. I believe that restricting what the public can do on public airwaves is counter to the longstanding policy about broadcasters providing a public benefit for the privilege of profiting from this public asset.
I’m urging all of you to take action before it’s too late!
Another broadcaster in Boston has locked down their ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. CBS affiliate WBZ has joined the ABC and NBC affiliates in denying the public the ability to watch TV the way they want.
Here’s the latest from RabbitEars.info. Boston is almost all red now when it comes to access to free over the air TV:
To learn more about this topic be sure to catch this video where I deep dive into the reasoning behind broadcasters locking down their broadcasts. Spoiler alert, it’s all about retaining their lucrative retransmission fees.
In my latest video I discuss the concerning trend of broadcasters introducing encryption and Digital Rights Management (DRM) to ATSC 3 broadcasts in the United States. This move, while seemingly about preventing piracy and illegal re-transmission of signals, could significantly limit consumers’ ability to consume content in the way they want.
While consumers can watch ATSC 3 content live on next-gen certified televisions, they may face restrictions when trying to use apps like Plex or Channels for DVR recordings or outside-the-home viewing. There’s also the looming question of whether an Internet connection might be required to watch broadcast TV in the future.
However, this shift towards DRM and encryption raises several questions and concerns. One of the most pressing is whether broadcasters could eventually charge consumers to watch what should be free television. While broadcasters are barred from doing so by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), I wouldn’t be surprised to see some broadcasters lobbying the FCC to allow it.
Another concern is the future of free TV content. As networks transition into streaming services, there’s a risk that high-quality content may become exclusive to paid streaming, leaving only local news and less desirable content for free broadcast TV. We’re already seeing examples of NBC, through Peacock and CBS, through Paramount+ offering content exclusive to those streaming apps that are not available on broadcast.
Since this video was uploaded I heard from a bunch of viewers who were recently impacted by this change. Here’s what Matthew Mello sent to me on Twitter this morning:
Here the Comcast owned affiliate encrypts their ATSC 3 over the air signal making it more difficult to tune for free. If you want to DVR content or watch on a phone you’ll have to subscribe to cable to get those features – with Comcast picking up subscription AND retransmission fees.
There’s a reason the FCC used to limit media ownership in a market!
As a consumer and a tech enthusiast, I’m keeping a close eye on these developments. If DRM gets activated where I live I’ll be sure to share my experiences and continue to advocate for consumer rights in the broadcasting industry. Until then, I encourage everyone to stay informed and take action to protect our access to free over-the-air TV.
I am continuing my journey into over the air ATSC 3 television now that I have a functional antenna up on my roof. In my latest video I explore streaming ATSC content outside my home!
Unlike the older ATSC 1.0 broadcasts that are encoded in a high bitrate MPEG 2 format, ATSC 3.0 uses a modern HEVC codec. This is very similar to the video encoding used by Netflix and other popular streaming services, making these ATSC 3.0 broadcasts much friendlier for remote streaming. ATSC 3.0 also runs at about half the bitrate of ATSC 1 broadcasts for HD content.
As before we used my HDHomerun Flex 4k to tune the signals which was provided free of charge by Silicondust to review a little while back. These devices are primarily designed to work on a local network only, but because HDHomeruns have an open architecture there are third party software options that provide more flexibility.
That’s where the Channels App for HDHomerun comes in. The app can connect to an HDhomerun remotely providing a channel guide and even pause and rewind capabilities. In my use case I set up a local VPN on my router to access my home network from the outside securely. In my testing it worked just as well outside the home as it did inside the house!
For iPhone and iPad users the Channels App for HDHomerun is free to use. On android and TV boxes (including the AppleTV) the app costs $25 one time with no subscription fees. Channels also offers a self-hosted DVR service that we’ve covered in the past for an $8 monthly subscription fee.
But there is a big asterisk on this which involves ATSC 3.0’s dark side – the option for broadcasters to enable a DRM flag. This is already taking place in some markets and it’s unlikely that the Channels App will be able to tune those DRM’ed channels in the future. The AntennaMan has a great analysis of the situation on his YouTube channel.
But for now this works great for me. We’ll likely see more players support this in the future once the AC4 audio codec can be decoded using open source tools like FFMPEG.
Disclosure: Silicondust, the makers of the HDHomerun along with the Channels App are past sponsors here on the channel. They did not sponsor this video.
The topic of cord cutting / cord shaving has been a big part of my success here on YouTube. But up until now I’ve mostly been a cord shaver as I couldn’t receive all of my broadcast channels here at my house. But that changed this past week as I finally got an antenna installed at the house! See the results in my latest video.
There are two game changing components that made this possible. The first is that NextGenTV / ATSC 3.0 rolled out for me here in Connecticut. That put all of my local broadcasters on the same transmission feed allowing me to get all five off the same tower and frequency. You can see more about that in my prior video in this series.
What’s amazing is that these signals are coming in at half the bit rate they did on the ATSC 1.0 standard with far better image quality.
The second game changer was finding the right antenna that can pick up these distant signals in a reliable way. That came thanks to the “Televes DATBOSS LR Mix” antenna. It’s enormous but it’s what I need based on my location to pull in these channels reliably.
I reviewed the Televes Antenna in a few months ago and found its size along with its included amplifier dramatically improved my reception vs. the antenna I used in the first video. A big shoutout to the Antenna Man who recommended this one for my location.
So now that I found the antenna I had to find a way to get it on the roof. As good as I am with technology I am not qualified when it comes to climbing up ladders and drilling holes into my house. I had a really hard time finding a professional antenna installer around here – in fact posts to my local Facebook and Nextdoor groups only had those looking for similar services responding.
The only option in my area was Dish Network’s antenna service that was reasonably priced but they only supported one antenna for the task. When they came out a few years ago their antenna didn’t pick up much of anything around here.
I reached out to a high school buddy who’s a talented local home improvement contractor who got the job done. The only hiccup we encountered was that the aluminum pole we were originally going to use wasn’t rigid enough to support the enormous antenna in the wind.
We found a more rigid (albeit shorter) pole that gets the antenna just high enough to clear the roofline. I had him point it in the direction of the ATSC 3.0 signals were located thanks to the information I found on Antennaweb.org.
Once we had it all locked down I connected the antenna to my HDHomerun Flex 4k box that SiliconDust sent me to review a few months ago when I started this project. In full disclosure they are an occasional sponsor here on the channel.
Sure enough when we booted everything up the HDhomerun was able to find a whopping 62 channels. Most of them of course are side channels but I am now able to get all of my local broadcasters for free in crystal clear HEVC video.
The signal strength is about 7-10% less than what we had in my initial testing on my tripod where I could position the antenna in between some trees. Right now everything is stable with no stutters or other issues but I am going to see how things look in a few weeks when the foliage returns to the area. I have many high trees surrounding my property which might cause some trouble. I’ll keep you posted!
All in it’s great to have an option now to re-think how I pay for television. I’m going to see how things look after the leaves come back and will possibly ditch my cable television subscription if everything remains stable here.