FCC Vote on ‘Broadcast Internet’ is the Next Step to Expand Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Tech Empire
On December 10, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced via a declaratory ruling that it unanimously approved a Report and Order with updates around the rules and fee structure of broadcast internet services. The new standard is the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) 3.0.
3.0 is the next generation of standards developed by the ATSC. It will power NextGen TV like that already provided by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The FCC’s vote to help promote broadcasting as a new ancillary/competitive broadband service came in a unanimous vote via teleconference at the FCC’s June 9 public meeting at the beginning of the summer. The item includes a ruling on broadcast internet and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking teeing up some inquiries.
The FCC’s ruling also means that it will not apply long-standing TV station ownership restrictions to the spectrum’s lease to provide “Broadcast Internet” services via the new ATSC 3.0 advanced television standard.
What the Report and Order Includes
The FCC’s Report and Order is an official document. As previously stated, It clarifies the commission’s December meeting finalizations about the fee structure of ancillary and supplementary broadcast internet services. According to a spokesperson for the FCC, this order will facilitate partnerships with third parties to provide essential news services without paying extra fees to the federal government. Also contained in the order are some additional proposals around non-commercial educational television stations. The updated rules will allow those entities to deliver nonprofit, non-commercial, and educational broadcast internet services along with their existing television programming. The Report and Order lower the fees on revenue from nonprofit broadcast internet services by 50%, from 5% to 2.5%.
“This action takes important steps to unlock the potential of broadcast spectrum further, empower innovation and create significant value for broadcasters and the American public alike by removing the uncertainty cast by legacy regulations,” the FCC said.
“For IoT, smart ag, and telemedicine applications, Broadcast Internet’s low-band spectrum could provide an efficient means of communicating with devices over wide areas,” added FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in a separate release.
Carr said the FCC’s action removes “the uncertainty cast by media regulations that were drafted for an entirely different set of broadcast TV services.”
“In the Declaratory Ruling, we ensure that legacy media regulations do not weigh down broadcast Internet services by clarifying that the Commission’s broadcast television station rules of ownership do not apply to leasing arrangements between broadcasters and third parties for the provision of Broadcast Internet services.”
About the ATSC 3.0 Standards
Broadcast professionals often refer to the ATSC 3.0 standards as the “next generation” or “Next Gen TV” of broadcast television standards. This new set of standards offers more efficient digital broadcasting methods than the current 1.0 standards allow Sinclair to use. They also ensure additional capacity for broadcasters to expand their current offerings and to deliver broadcast internet over the emerging 5G networks around the United States.
FCC Accepts Recommendations With Minimal Changes
The FCC will adopt all the proposed updates in the Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking around ATSC 3.0 standards. The order includes requiring the FCC to calculate supplementary and ancillary service fees by broadcaster instead of revenue. It also excludes in-kind facility improvements from a broadcaster’s gross income if those improvements are directly related to the delivery of ATSC 3.0 programming. The FCC will not be lowering the 5% ancillary and supplemental service fees for for-profit television stations for the time being. However, it will adopt a reduced price of 2.5% for nonprofit broadcasters for those services.
Why the Service Expansion Is Important to Broadcasters
The Report and Order permit broadcasters, such as Sinclair Broadcast Group, to use their spectrum for educational, nonprofit, and non-commercial ancillary and supplementary services over the Internet. In a competitive market, broadcasters need to continuously update and improve their offerings to attract and retain viewers. As consumers increasingly turn to streaming services for news, sports, movies, educational programming, and entertainment, television broadcasters need a way to keep up with the platforms that already offer these online services. The new Report and Order on ATSC 3.0 facilitates this.
Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s NEXTGEN TV 3.0 Rollout Shifts into Overdrive
Sinclair and NEXTGEN TV officially began to expand their partnership’s reach, accelerating the broadcasting services NEXTGEN TV rolled out to Sinclair Broadcast Group local affiliate television stations across the US earlier this year. The partnership launched its first major multi-channel commercial deployment on four stations in Las Vegas’s metropolitan area last May. Bitpath, the company responsible for developing new data broadcasting services, coordinated the launch, which concluded a year of planning between Sinclair, Nexstar, Scripps, and their local Las Vegas-area broadcasting stations.
With the FCC ATSC 3.0 ruling coming down only weeks later in June, Sinclair Broadcast Group and NEXTGEN TV partnering with BitPath and PearlTV began to expand into new markets across the states monthly. Sinclair introduced US cities like Pittsburgh, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Austin, and Portland to the upgraded NEXTGEN TV technology. The new tech enables the full synthesis of enhanced broadcast television services into today’s consumers’ digital and mobile lifestyles.
What Television Broadcasters Can Offer Online
In the Report and Order, the FCC outlines some of the television broadcasters’ plans to request ATSC 3.0 acceptance. Distance learning, in particular, was cited as a reason for the FCC to open up ATSC 3.0 to public television stations. With so many students continuing to learn from home in distance or remote learning programs, school districts link students with educational programming and online content as a part of their lesson plans and curricula. The FCC also explained that the ATSC 3.0 standard would make it easier for television stations to deliver potentially life-saving information to people in the United States’ under-served areas. Broadcasters can also use it to provide hyper-local news and health-related information.
The Response of Broadcast Operators to the FCC’s Report and Order
Ann Marie Cumming, the Senior Vice President of Communications at the National Association of Broadcasters, stated after the FCC voted to pass the Report and Order. “NAB appreciates the commission’s efforts to provide greater regulatory certainty concerning potential future uses of the NextGen TV transmission standard.”
Cummings also affirmed that the National Association of Broadcasters backs the development of ATSC 3.0. From NAB’s point-of-view, consumers and significant broadcasters will enjoy direct benefits, including:
- The ability for broadcasters to offer and users to consume a broader variation in programming.
- Programming, as a whole, will integrate more efficiently with other media entities.
Cummings also noted that “Broadcasters are excited about innovative applications this standard makes possible, in addition to the standard’s ability to unlock the next generation of television service for our viewers.”
The nonprofit organization, America’s Public Television Stations, also urged the FCC to adopt the new standards. Many of its members are increasingly turning to live streaming services as a new revenue source to provide unique and exclusive offerings to their customers.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is a member of the National Association of Broadcasters and America’s Public Television Stations organization.
Benefits of a Sinclair Broadcast Group and NEXTGEN TV Digital Partnership
NEXTGEN TV is a revolutionary new digital broadcast technology fundamentally based on the same technological innovations as the Internet, digital application technology (apps), and other web services. NEXTGEN TV bolsters a varied range of development features now, including immersive audio and video (up to 4K), mobile device broadcasting, personalized viewing tools, and advanced emergency alerts implementing rich media rather than simple text messages. NEXTGEN TV also enables full integration with 5G technology now sweeping the nation and other broadband-delivered Internet content.
About Sinclair Broadcast Group
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. is one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country. Sinclair owns and operates programs or provides sales services to more television stations than anyone and has affiliations with all the major networks. Also, Sinclair is the leading local news provider in the country and a producer of sports content. Sinclair owns a multicast network, four radio stations, and a cable network. Sinclair delivers its broadcast content via multiple platforms, including over-the-air, multi-channel video program distributors, and digital media. Sinclair, either directly or through its venture subsidiaries, makes equity investments in strategic companies. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. was founded in 1986, went public in 1995, and is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol SBGI.
Throughout our history, Sinclair Broadcast Group has been at the forefront of industry-changing events and technological advances. Our vision and first-to-market mentality drive our ‘next generation’ thinking, stimulating conversations, innovating through our expertise, and advocating for the development of technology and evolving business models.
As a leading over-the-air broadcast television company, our primary business is to engage consumers on multiple platforms with relevant and compelling news, entertainment, and sports content and provide advertisers and business efficient means and value to connect with our mass audiences. We recognize the vital role broadcast television plays in branding and local content delivery. Therefore, we strive to continually be at the forefront of leading-edge technology and structures to advance the industry.
This article has been published in accordance with Socialnomics’ disclosure policy.