Advanced Television

Non-real-time Content Delivery standard from ATSC

May 30, 2012

The US’s Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has confirmed the approval of the ATSC NRT (Non-Real-Time) Content Delivery standard, a backwards-compatible enhancement to digital TV broadcasting that provides a framework for new capability for feature-rich receivers, including ‘on demand’ broadcast TV channels, more detailed programme information for the delivery of a broad range of exciting new services. The new ATSC NRT standard is designated as A/103.

The delivery of non-real-time services via the A/103 standard will now allow broadcasters to deliver file-based content, including programmes and clips, information for emergency alerts and even commercial applications such as digital signage. The new ATSC NRT broadcast standard will support terrestrial transmission to both fixed location and mobile DTV receivers designed to make use of the new flexibility.

“Television broadcasting remains the most efficient means to move popular content to a very large audience because broadcasting is an infinitely scalable one-to-many technology. Non-Real-Time services, or NRT for short, represent just one element of the emerging ATSC 2.0 Standard that also is likely to include new advanced coding technologies, Internet-related features, enhanced service guides, audience measurement, and conditional access capability for TV broadcasts,” said ATSC President Mark Richer. “ATSC’s new NRT standard gives broadcasters the capability to deliver all types of file-based content to consumers. Using broadcast television, programmers will be able to send content that a viewer may watch at their convenience.”

NRT is the delivery of content in advance of consumption, so when the viewer wants to view the content, it’s already available. According to the ATSC, any TV programmes do not require live transmissions and immediate viewing, as they could be transmitted and downloaded overnight and presented when the viewer wants to see them. For example, most mobile TV viewing is done on an opportunistic basis, since viewers want to watch something while waiting for something else. Rather than planning to watch a specific programme at a specific time, your time waiting at the doctor’s office might be spent watching content cached to your receiver by the new ATSC NRT standard. The viewer could easily select what they want to see from a menu, with the programme or service pre-loaded on a mobile device.

The ATSC suggests that broadcast NRT content could include both ‘traditional’ TV fare (video/audio entertainment programming, news, weather, sports, and other shows), information that is not now part of traditional TV fare or that is presented in a customised and non-traditional way, as well as information not aimed at the TV at all — including content targeted to PCs, handheld media players or even commercial platforms.

Anticipated applications for NRT services include:

  • Push Video-On-Demand (content ranging from short-form video clips to feature length movies);
  • News, information and weather services;
  • Personalised TV channels;
  • Music distribution;
  • Reference information on a wide range of topics.

ATSC reveals that NRT data has already been used to deliver Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) signals to prototype mobile digital TV devices as well as digital signage via Mobile DTV channels to displays on moving buses and on stationary train platforms. NRT’s capabilities also have been shown in demonstrations of broadcast 3D-TV, as a supplementary method of delivering stereoscopic content.

“Standardised transmission of NRT services allows broadcasters to continue to capitalise on a unique advantage – the wireless delivery of localised content to devices. The development of complete end-to-end standards to enable NRT service delivery is expected to be a critical part of the future of broadcasting,” Richer said.

NRT is content delivered in advance of use and is stored to be played when desired by the consumer. The service comprises of a collection of NRT content items, much like a television channel. The NRT content items consist of a collection of programme elements that the provider combines together in a single unit for presentation purposes.



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