THROWBACK THURSDAY: That time when I told you ATSC 3.0 was coming

Sure, it’s easy to talk about the next-generation television standard now, but what if I told you that this blog talked about it three years ago? That’s right, the FCC may have only decided to allow broadcasts, but it’s only the latest step in a process that began quite a while ago. I started talking about a key component of ATSC 3.0, which is the most likely candidate for a next-generation televsion standard, back in 2014. This doesn’t mean I had any sort of magic on my side, it just meant that I was doing my reading.

Back then, it was believed that the standard would be called ATSC 2.0, just because that actually would have made sense. You can read about it in a blog post from 2013. Addressable advertising means commercials that are targeted to you and aren’t just generic commercials. You are inundated every day with targeted ads on most of the web sites you visit. If you ever wonder why you see ads for something days after you looked at it on a web site, that’s because you’re being targeted.

Addressable advertising on television started way back in the 1980s but it’s incredibly complex today. DIRECTV and other providers actually download ads to your DVR and serve them to you on demand, seamlessly, in place of other ads when you’re watching live TV. In some cases they’re even inserted into recorded programs as they are being recorded. You can opt out of this sort of thing but most people find it harmless and ignore ads anyway.

With the current television standard, there’s no way to do something like that. Everyone sees the same ads no matter who they are, and that means a lot of wasted money. Advertisers rely on ratings data to try to figure out the kind of person who watches a specific show, but that’s a very imprecise way of dealing with advertising and internet-based ads do much, much better.

Future televisions could pre-download ads that appeal to you specifically and insert them in the broadcast stream just the same way that cable and satellite do. They could also trigger information to be sent to your phone as you’re watching live TV, giving you a second-screen experience that may actually make watching the ad worthwhile. Or, the whole thing could turn into an incredibly annoying mess like that scene in Minority Report:

We’re still years away from seeing this technology being used in the mainstream, but with at least one city getting ready to jump into ATSC 3.0 with both feet, it could be coming sooner than you think.