THROWBACK THURSDAY: The end of broadcast TV?

The internet never forgets. So, if things in the broadcast world don’t go the way I expected, there won’t be any escape for me. This article I posted in 2013 wasn’t the first or last time I forecasted that up to 75% of broadcasters could simply give up and go home by the end of 2017. The FCC was on a quest to allocate more space to cell internet, and ended up pulling some more of the frequencies that are now used for TV watching. This has made it possible for cell carriers to roll out 5G more easily and more quickly, and it’s been very successful.

Back when this all started, a lot of people, myself included, thought the reverse auction that the FCC held would be so successful that broadcast TV would nearly disappear from smaller markets. Of course back then we were just emerging from the shadow of a massive recession and things looked very different. Today, people are spending more than ever. The economy took a few hits, but it’s still looking very strong.

2017 wasn’t the end of broadcast TV

For once, I’m pretty glad I completely missed the mark on something. The FCC completed all its machinations, and broadcast TV survived. There has been very little change in the landscape since then. Test broadcasts of the next generation broadcast standard have been going on for years, but low-cost consumer equipment still seems years away. Very few stations packed up and left. That’s a good thing.

See, I’m glad broadcast TV is stronger than I once thought. Streaming is great, and satellite is awesome, but I think we’d be giving up something really important if we moved away from traditional TV broadcasting. The quality of broadcast TV is better than the same programs seen on cable or satellite. As TVs get bigger and 4K broadcasting is pretty much seen in streaming only, a top-quality picture on the shows you want to watch is super-important. You won’t see your favorite shows looking any better than if you see them coming through an antenna.

Is broadcast TV still in danger?

I’m glad to say that broadcast TV is strong. I still have my concerns about so-called “NextGen TV,” also known as ATSC 3.0. It’s been on a slow roll for several years. If implemented, it would allow for 4K programs, on-demand, and addressable ads. But there’s some question about when or if it will happen. At one time there was an expected transition date of late 2025, but since there’s been no more said about that, I have to believe it’s not going to happen then. I believe that if Congress acted today to endorse ATSC 3.0 as the only TV standard for the US, it would be 2027 at the earliest before stations started to switch over.

Moving slowly might be the right choice to save the broadcast TV infrastructure. Still, you have to wonder what that transition will look like and how many people will focus on it.

In the meantime though, I can say that today’s TV antennas will work for future broadcasts. That’s true no matter what standard ends up in place . So, shop for the right antenna from Solid Signal and you’ll know that there will be no problems with futureproofing!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.