ATSC 3 TV Tuners Have an Expiration Date, Slow Progress on Gateway Devices and More..

The transition from the ATSC 1.0 to the ATSC 3.0 standard in over-the-air television broadcasting has been a topic of much discussion and concern, particularly regarding the DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption applied to broadcast signals. This shift brings a significant limitation for viewers like myself who have enjoyed the freedom to watch and record television in the privacy of our homes.

In my latest video update on the ATSC DRM situation, I learned that every ATSC 3.0 tuner will have its decryption certificate expire after a certain length of time.

These certificates, essential for viewing encrypted signals, will expire after a predetermined period – varying from 10 to 30 years. For example, the certificates in devices like the ADTH box and Zapperbox are set to expire in 30 years. But the costs of these certificates are based on length AND quantity. Many manufacturers producing high volumes of tuners may opt for the shorter length certificates to remain profitable. And so far no manufacturer has disclosed how long their certs will last.

Given that the HDHomerun I reviewed over a decade ago is still running on my network today, it’s not unreasonable to have a tuners in use for lengths of time that exceed the certificate’s expiration date. At the moment these certificates are tied to the model number of the hardware being produced and are not renewable via firmware updates.

Another aspect of the ATSC 3.0 transition that has come to light is the ‘phone home’ feature of these devices. Regardless of whether an internet connection is necessary for television viewing, devices with ATSC 3.0 tuners will communicate back to broadcaster servers for certificate validation whenever they tune into an encrypted channel, provided an internet connection is available.

The progress—or lack thereof—in developing gateway devices for ATSC 3.0 has been another point of contention. Gateway devices, like the Tablo and HDHomeRun, are popular as they allow users to stream broadcast content across various devices within their home network. Unfortunately, due to the DRM encryption, creating compatible ATSC 3.0 gateway devices has been a challenge. This struggle is further complicated by compatibility issues with platforms like Apple TV, Roku, and Windows, among others.

Interestingly, the shift towards ATSC 3.0 has led to a potential change in how broadcasters might distribute high-bandwidth content like 4K. Rather than using valuable broadcasting bandwidth, it appears more likely that 4K content will be streamed over the internet, signaled by URLs pinged out by broadcasters over the air. This was revealed in the latest Zapperbox release notes:

As broadcasters seemingly retreat from utilizing public airwaves to their full potential, one wonders if these frequencies could be repurposed for community-benefiting uses, such as local access television. This would provide a new avenue for public access channels, which are currently struggling due to the decline in cable TV subscriptions and the consequent reduction in funding.

The ATSC 3.0 transition, marked by its DRM encryption and tuner expiration dates, raises critical questions about the future of over-the-air television broadcasting. As we move towards the 2027 deadline for the completion of this transition, the decisions made by broadcasters and regulators will significantly impact how we consume broadcast television in the years to come – if at all..

ATSC 3 DRM Update: No Plan for Gateway Devices and some DRM Certified TVs Don’t Work..

Our campaign continues against the encryption of over the air television signals with my latest video.

The broadcast industry’s DRM implementation restricts how viewers can consume TV content within their homes. Despite the outcry, broadcasters continue their efforts to encrypt over-the-air television, which could potentially limit consumer freedom in how they access and record content.

Here’s the latest news on the topic that I cover in the video:

Petition / Docket Update
The petition on Change.org to stop DRM has garnered over 9,000 signatures, reflecting a growing concern among the public. This petition, along with over 2,200 citizen submissions to the FCC’s official docket, demonstrates a clear message from consumers: they do not want DRM.

New York City Finally Gets ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts, but with DRM..
In New York City, the largest TV market in the United States, ATSC 3.0 broadcasts have finally arrived. However, half of the available channels are already encrypted, which means unless a TV is directly connected to an antenna, viewership options are limited.

The Industry Touts 10 Million ATSC 3 Tuners in the Market But..
The NextGen TV group announced they are on track to have 10 million ATSC 3 tuners in consumer homes by the end of the Q4 this year. But most of these are built into televisions that require a direct antenna connection, or a TV tuner box that requires a direct antenna AND an Internet connection to work.

The Antenna Man, a well-known figure in the cord cutting community, has discovered that many devices that claim to work with DRM-encrypted signals are failing to do so. This includes televisions that either don’t tune channels at all or experience random lock-ups.

New Industry Rules on DVR Recording
The A3SA, a separate standards body responsible for DRM encryption, released broadcast encoding rules that, on the surface, seem to be consumer-friendly. These rules include allowing viewers to decrypt and record broadcasts, make unlimited copies, and use features like pause, rewind, fast forward, and ad-skipping.

But these rules are limited to devices that have been certified to decrypt DRM content. And none of the currently shipping devices on the market seem to be able to do anything that these rules allow. What’s worse is that these rules only apply to ATSC 3 signals that are simulcast on the older ATSC 1.0 technology. This leads me to wonder if they will put these restrictions in place once the 2027 transition is complete.

Zapperbox Gets Certified for DRM
The Zapperbox, a digital tuning device, has been certified to watch live encrypted content but not record it. Like the ADTH box I reviewed a little while back, the Zapperbox will require an Internet connection to watch DRM encrypted content for the time being.

The process to update the Zapperbox for DRM compatibility requires allowing unattended screen sharing access to the device to install the security credentials, which raises security concerns. New Zapperbox devices will come from the factory with these security credentials preinstalled.

SiliconDust Says DRM Rules Haven’t Contemplated Gateway Devices..
SiliconDust, the makers of the HDHomeRun, have noted that there is no formal approval for gateway products that allow for in-home streaming of encrypted content. This means that consumers cannot stream content to multiple devices within their homes, a significant step back from the current capabilities with ATSC 1.0.

..Yet Consumers Want Gateway Devices that Replicate Streaming Service Functionality
The broadcaster E.W. Scripps, after acquiring network gateway tuner manufacturer Tablo, canceled the development of an ATSC 3.0 product that would not work as a gateway. The product they did end up releasing, the 4th generation Tablo tuner, does not have ATSC 3.0 support and only works through connected smartphone or smart TV applications as a gateway device.

When I asked why a hardware device owned by a broadcaster shunned the new standard in favor of the old one, here’s what they had to say:

“The fourth-generation Tablo device is optimized for the ATSC 1.0 broadcast standard. We’re excited about forthcoming Tablo devices that will take advantage of the 3.0 standard. We are currently working with the ATCS 3.0 groups to ensure Tablo (and other recording devices) will be compliant and work with the new content protection standards that are part of ATSC 3.0.”

Their statement and actions as a consumer electronics manufacturer indicate that the industry really didn’t contemplate gateway products or is purposely leaving gateway usage out of the specification in an effort to steer consumers into pricey subscription plans.

Where’s the FCC?
As for the FCC’s role in this, it seems they are waiting to see how the situation unfolds before stepping in. With the transition deadline set for 2027, there’s still time for the industry to experiment and potentially fail, which could prompt corrective regulatory action. The irony of all of this is that the private sector rule-making here feels more onerous than government regulation!

What do you think?
The question remains: what is the best outcome for consumers? Is it the complete elimination of DRM, or is there a middle ground where encryption exists but with the flexibility that consumers currently enjoy via gateway devices? Let me know what you think in my latest poll on my YouTube channel.

I will continue to follow this topic closely, providing updates and insights as they emerge. The advocacy against DRM is gaining traction, and it’s clear that the voices of consumers are starting to be heard. The industry and regulatory bodies will have to take these concerns into account as they navigate the future of television broadcasting.

ADTH Tuner Firmware Update Still Does Not Encrypt the HDMI Port

Last week I reviewed the new ADTH ATSC 3 TV tuner, the first external device that can decrypt DRM protected TV stations.

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:

ATSC 3 DRM is Worse Than We Thought!

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.

In a positive turn of events, the FCC has delayed the official transition to ATSC 3.0 until at least June 2027. This gives us more time to make our case and ensure that when the transition does occur, it doesn’t come with undue restrictions.

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.

This directly contradicts Pearl TV’s earlier statements in June that certified devices would be able to decrypt broadcasts:

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 Picks Up our ATSC 3.0 Encryption Story

As many of you know Tyler the Antennaman and I have been on a mission to inform the public about the rapid encryption of what used to be free over the air television. To date we’ve had 7,600 people sign our petition to the FCC and added 2,000 new comments to the FCC’s docket about the issue.

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?

Read more in the TechHive article.

ATSC 3 DRM Update – We’re on the FCC Docket!

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.

We need to keep the pressure on. If you haven’t already, please consider submitting your thoughts to the FCC docket!

The FCC Responds to my ATSC 3 Encryption Complaint – They Want To Hear From You!

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!!

I discuss this in my latest video.

Steps:

1. Click this link to be taken to the FCC filing form.

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!

Let’s Save Free TV and Stop ATSC 3.0 DRM! Sign my petition!

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.

But aren’t we allowed to record broadcast TV? While the Sony vs. Universal Studios Supreme Court decision in the 80s affirmed our right to record content, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to circumvent copyright controls to make a recording. This means that, legally, consumers will be breaking the law if they record these encrypted broadcasts through some kind of circumvention.

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 Locks Down ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts with DRM

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.

Broadcasters Roll Out Restrictive DRM Encryption on ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts

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.

I suspect that the motivation behind this move is largely to protect their re-transmission fee revenue broadcasters collected on a per-subscriber basis from cable companies and streaming services. Some estimates have it as high as $15 billion annually.

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.

Given these concerns, I believe it’s crucial for consumers to voice their objections to the introduction of DRM in ATSC 3 broadcasts. I recommend reaching out to your senators and representatives, particularly those who have shown interest in accelerating the rollout of the ATSC 3 standard, to bring this issue to their attention.

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.