Five Albany stations launch NextGen TV

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

Five TV stations in the Albany, New York, region began broadcasting with NextGen TV digital broadcast technology March 24, 2022.

The launch includes WTEN, Nexstar Media Group’s ABC affiliate, WRGB, the CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fox station WXXA owned by Mission Broadcasting and in a shared services agreement with WTEN, Sinclair CW station WCWN and PBS member station WMHT.

Notably missing is WNYT, the market’s NBC affiliate owned by Hubbard Broadcasting.

Based on the same fundamental technology as the Internet and digital apps, NextGen TV can support a wide range of features that are currently in development.

In addition to providing a new, improved way for broadcasters to reach viewers with advanced emergency alerts, NextGen TV features higher quality video with brilliant color, sharper images and deeper contrast to create a more life-like experience.

NextGen TV adds a new dimension to TV viewing, with vibrant video and new Voice+ dialogue enhancement that brings voices to the foreground. Movie theater-quality sound lets viewers hear every voice clearly and keeps volume consistent across channels. NextGen TV also can be enhanced with Internet content, enabling viewers to get the most out of live sports, live news, and live events in real-time, without looking away from the TV screen.

Powered by ATSC 3.0, NextGen TV is the most significant broadcast technology upgrade to date. Features available on NextGen TV will vary by device and station, as broadcasters roll out service across the country.

Today’s launch in Albany follows a decade of development and months of planning and preparation by the local stations.

WCWN, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, has converted to ATSC 3.0 transmissions. WCWN will broadcast its own programming, as well as the programming of the other participating stations, in NextGen TV format. All the programming of each participating station will continue to be available in the existing DTV format, which all modern television sets can receive.

The strategy of combining multiple ATSC 3.0 signals in one station’s transmitter is common in markets and recommended by the FCC, which is not issuing separate channel numbers for NextGen TV signals.

The Albany launch was likely made simpler thanks to cooperation between Nexstar and Sinclair, who combined own or operate four of the five stations that launched the NextGen TV. It also could explain why WNYT wasn’t involved in this rollout since it’s the only major commercial station in the market not owned or controlled by either of those companies.

Nexstar and Sinclair have made significant investments in NextGen TV across other markets as well, as have Scripps and Tegna.

Nexstar and Sinclair don’t own or control WMHT Educational Telecommunications, the parent of the market’s PBS station, but merging its NextGen TV effort with two major broadcast groups may have allowed it to consolidate costs.

BitPath, which is developing new data broadcasting services, led the planning process and coordinated efforts across the five television stations.

The update will require over-the-air viewers without NextGen TV compatible sets to rescan in order to continue enjoying the five stations affected. Cable and satellite viewers are not affected.

There are some concerns over ATSC 3.0 features that could allow for targeted advertising which, in turn, could provide stations with a way to track viewership outside of third-party providers such as Nielsen Media Research. The FCC has turned over these privacy and consumer issues to the FTC.

NextGen TV is a shared brand name for the ATSC 3.0 standard that was created by the Consumer Technology Association. ATSC 3.0 is also in various stages of adoption in other parts of the world.