NextGen TV’s DRM puts future of the over-the-air DVR in doubt

Sadly, it’s too late. Infrastructure and station costs invested are easily into the 100’s of millions of dollars. And of course, grows by the day. IMHO, what simply needs to happen is for the FCC to put a halt to DRM on broadcast signals and then it will all continue they way it looked at the beginning. And there’s a chance for reasonable DVRs (jury still out with regards to what that might mean for Tablo, as they have active “skin in the game” with regards to having DRM).

Sure, there’s still plenty of “extras” that are “abusive” to the consumer, so it’s not like broadcasters aren’t going to receive some “joy”, just not outrageous joy.

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I read an article that was speculating that 3.0/DRM/needs for the internet for paid service over OTA. Like you could do HBO over OTA if you paid for it.

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Currently there aren’t enough ATSC 3.0 lighthose station to support the big 4 networks, PDB, CW, and others that are using ATSC 1.0. One of the original ideas was that once there was enough spectrum a station could have ATSC 3.0 in 1080p for free and also a paided 4K broadcast

And now we hear that keys might even expire in TV sets…

I found this article interesting because (and in full disclosure, it doesn’t talk about DVR functionality at all) it says it’s the first ATSC 3.0 tuner that supports DRM content and doesn’t require an internet connection for those DRM channels…

Note: I’m assuming the February 2023 availability date mentioned in the article is just a typo and should be February 2024.

The “license” to decrypt does expire. But as Lon points out, there are some fairly “long running” options.

But, as with anything, somebody will engage a “long running” option, forget and then it will expire, etc.

But perhaps by then, we will have all “moved on” to AI broadcasts into our brain implants, or some such.

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It is never too late with your regulator.

If the FCC refuses to set the date when OTA broadcasters can shut down ATSC 1.0 broadcasts then those broadcasters will be left maintaining 2 separate Encoder, Studio-Transmitter-Links and Transmitter systems.

I predict that it will be a cold day in hell before the FCC allows broadcasters to leave some Americans without access to the existing Emergency Alert System 24 hours day.

You wrote:
"IMHO, what simply needs to happen is for the FCC to put a halt to DRM on broadcast signals and then it will all continue they way it looked at the beginning. "

I agree with that as far as it goes.

But equipment manufacturers would have to seek approval from the FCC, after certifying that their equipment would function normally with a loss of internet service. FCC approval of transmitting and receiving equipment is not new.

And broadcasters would have to transmit the EAS announcements on all scrambled and unscrambled programs.

And with LG out of the ATSC 3.0 television set game, the FCC will also be concerned about an adequate number of television sets.

I would be very surprised if all broadcasters can agree on the changes and make a December 2025 deadline. Committees move at a glacial pace.

It is a Taiwanese company.

I clicked on the link to Zinwell’s website in Nilex’s post and it went nowhere.

The “guess” is that (assuming the luv fest for DRM), that all the “good stuff” will move to encrypted ATSC 3.0 channels eventually, leaving ATSC 1.0 content to the dregs. Something else to consider.

With regards to TVs (not talking DVR), sure, they’ll have licenses and decryption keys and something that “passes” for acceptance with regards to the EAS. The whole DRM thing is a bigger issue for “recording” or doing flexible things with broadcast signal. No encryption license, no EAS. Times change, and sometimes our standards are lowered.

Aside: I remember originally with VOIP, your phone provider had to supply a UPS with the VOIP modem (likely now just your normal “Internet/gateway/router/wifi” thing). But now, they don’t. Power out. Phone out. 911 out… and “it’s ok”. Also, there’s no gov’t mandate for mobile phones with “infinite batteries” yet.

So EAS based on the variableness of decryption… gov’t will rubber stamp it. They’re pretty much “owned” (and not by the people they’re supposed to represent).

Yeah, their link in the article must just be incorrect. A direct link to the product is also available on the Channel Master website…

It’s not a license. It’s a certificate. A computer, tablet, and cell phone are full of different certificates. Most expired certificates are able to be refreshed with a new one.

Currently A3SA’s are not renewable. They a blowned on during the manufacturing process. The manufacturer pays for the length of a certificate. The maximum length currently appears to be 30 years.

A3SA is looking into updatable certificates.

An expiring “certificate” that requires a relationship and process in order to obtain or renew.

Label that however you want.

If you use a banking app it uses certificates. It’s a certificate that often works with an X.509 server to obtain the proper encrypt/decrypt tokens. There is a certificate cost/fee to use the bank’s token. this is payed by the bank. As long as the bank pays the fee your banking app will work.

If any ATSC 3.0 manufactuer goes out of business the some certificates might expire and DRM decrypt will probably stop working.

I go to the bank, odds are I can get a bank account.

Can’t say that with regards to ATSC 3.0 “certificates”.

Don’t we have something similar for radio in which the FCC license prevents encryption since it serves the public good and has an emergency component?

I think it’s possible that “the system” will provide a way to override encrypted communication for an unencrypted EAS to “overtake” or even side channel “overlay” the existing encrypted data.

Lots of variables. We’ll see.

But DRM is the devil’s work. Needs to go bye bye.

To: cjcox,

You wrote: “The “guess” is that (assuming the luv fest for DRM), that all the “good stuff” will move to encrypted ATSC 3.0 channels eventually, leaving ATSC 1.0 content to the dregs. Something else to consider.”

In exchange for the RF spectrum space allocated to them, OTA broadcasters are obligated to air programming for the general public, not just some segment of the public.

Dregs are not going to satisfy that requirement. Their competitors will gladly agree to serve the general public on that RF broadcast channel if it were granted to them!



That is very unlikely to change.

Broadcasters will be faced with a simple choice either continue to broadcast an ATSC 1.0 signal or quit sending DRM encryption data over their ATSC 3.0 RF channels while they work out the kinks.

And the television set manufacturers’ that block the ATSC 3.0 tuner derived video will find that the FCC can block the sale of their receivers in the United States.

Broadcasters have already lost some future LG ATSC 3.0 television sets and they cannot afford to lose any others. So their only recourse would be to remove DRM encryption data from their ATSC 3.0 stream.

Can ATSC 3.0 survive without encryption of a single program channel? Or does the death of DRM foreshadow the death of ATSC 3.0 broadcasting?

Perhaps there should have been a rule that the television receiver manufacturers would never block the PRIMARY channel video from the ATSC 3.0 tuner.

Broadcasters wanted the ATSC 3.0 system. The FCC has permitted them to advance that system but it has no obligation to continue to license it, if it will not meet the needs of the general public.

I believe that the current target for shutting ATSC 1.0 transmitters down is about mid 2027. There is not much time to salvage DRM but where there is a will there is a way.

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I like your optimism. But no, DRM right now is “full steam ahead”, content on ATSC 1.0 will have to shrink at some point. So, please everyone, don’t sit back and believe that “good things” might happen, it’s a train wreck coming right now.

If there’s “good news”, is that’s there’s time. ATSC 1.0 isn’t “going away”, but I do have concerns that disappearing content will happen sooner than people expect (though still likely years away).

Again the goal, is that all the content “you want” will be encrypted. It will come with guaranteed pain. The biggest pains likely being in the DVR space where it will either be effectively “nil” and for sure completely limited to device-to-device and NEVER anything remote or archived in a format that could be used outside that specific device doing the work.

Whatever you think you have today DVR wise will be LESS. If this train continues. If that’s interesting, which I figure it is in this forum. Everyone needs to not sit idle being “happy”. It may seem to far out, but the bad decisions (entrenchment) is happening now.