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Conventiongoers in Las Vegas get glimpse of TV of the future

Updated April 25, 2017 - 7:53 pm

Visitors to the National Association of Broadcasters Show are getting a rare chance to explore the next generation of television with crisper pictures and targeted advertising.

Las Vegas residents, though, will have to wait until at least the end of next year, and probably longer, before they can try it at home.

The 65-inch, 4K LG TV in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center is broadcasting this week with the next standard — known by its industry name ATSC 3.0 — with the help of special equipment set up at KLSV Channel 50’s transmitter site on Black Mountain.

When the show ends, so does Next Gen TV, as it is more commonly known, in Las Vegas for this year.

The LG screen, in fact, is the first factory-produced Next Gen TV in the United States, according to Dave Arland, a spokesman for ATSC 3.0 working the Next Gen TV pavilion at the NAB Show. South Korea-based LG will begin selling the sets in its home country this year.

Before the likes of Best Buy can begin selling Next Gen TV sets in the U.S., broadcasters have to complete the components of the new standard, and that will take a few more months, said Arland, who is also president of Indiana-based Arland Communications.

“We are really close. It’s about 95 percent done,” he said.

The Federal Communications Commission will also have to recognize the new standard before television stations can start broadcasting Next Gen TV. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told several hundred people at the NAB Show on Tuesday morning that he hopes to issue a final resolution on Next Gen TV by the end of the year.

The Next Gen TVs will offer viewers 4K images, immersive audio that flows all around the listener and interactive features, such as the ability to immediately order clothing worn by characters in a show. The TVs will also offer emergency alerts.

Viewers would need a TV screen at least 55 inches wide in order to enjoy all the benefits, said Arland.

The TVs will also bring significant benefits to broadcasters, such as better audience measurement and direct advertising. Broadcasters would be able to show separate commercials to two people in the same house watching the same show on different TVs.

Rollout timeline

The U.S. won’t be the first country to launch Next Gen TV. South Korea will begin broadcasting Next Gen TV this year ahead of next year’s Olympic Winter Games, which the country will host.

Unlike with the phaseout of analog TV during the 2000s, there is a lack of spectrum to broadcast simultaneously on two standards, said Arland. Thus, competing stations will have to cooperate on the rollout, with one station broadcasting in ATSC 1.0 for two or more stations while the others launch 3.0.

“You might have a station (in Vegas) on the air by the end of 2018,” Arland said. “But this is really a marathon, not a sprint.”

LG, fellow South Korean producer Samsung and Japanese maker Sony are the leaders in Next Gen TV technology. While prices are not yet available, they will likely be a bit more expensive than current 4K televisions. A 65-inch LG 4K TV goes for about $900, according to Best Buy.

Next Gen TV, which has an Internet Protocol backbone, will enable people to stream live local and national TV news on their mobile devices, whether they are at home, in the back seat of a car or on a train, said Arland.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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