NAB 2016

NAB 2016: Nothing Official on ATSC 3.0 Audio Yet, But the 2018 Winter Olympics Will Use MPEG-H Format

While the “ATSC 3.0 Consumer Experience” — an exhibit on the show floor co-hosted by the NAB, the Consumer Technology Association, and the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) — is giving NAB 2016 attendees a peek at what they can expect with the recently ratified standard, balloting remains under way regarding which of the two candidate formats will be chosen for the U.S. market.

One of the contenders for inclusion as the audio format has some good news to share. According to Fraunhofer IIS, the Germany-based developer of MPEG-H, the other candidate format for ATSC 3.0, South Korea will implement MPEG-H as the country’s broadcast-audio–format choice. The three largest national networks — KBS, MBC, and SBS — will adopt the format. Robert Bleidt, division general manager, Fraunhofer USA, says that initial use of the MPEG-H codec on regularly scheduled television in South Korea could begin by the end of this year.

The biggest implication is that the 2018 Winter Olympics, to be held at PyeongChang, South Korea, will be the first Games to be broadcast using MPEG-H for the Korean broadcast. Korean supplier DS Broadcast will manufacture the BGE9000 4K/UHD encoder, which will be among the first professional broadcast encoders to support MPEG-H Audio software in the Korean market.

For the audio format for the U.S. market, speculation is leaning heavily toward Dolby’s AC-4 format, although Dolby sources demur comment ahead of any official announcement. But the company is offering extensive demos of AC-4 because it will soon be used in consumer television sets from Samsung, LG, and other manufacturers. Such features as language choices, announcer volume, and other personalization functions will be available as the format begins to enter the production workflow. The same features will also be translatable to mobile devices.

Fraunhofer declines to speculate about its prospects for inclusion in the U.S. ahead of any official announcements from the ATSC. However, Bleidt says, “We’re very pleased that MPEG-H will be the exclusive codec for the Olympics.” He adds that the experience Fraunhofer accumulated working with winter sports in the U.S. in recent years will contribute to the success of the format for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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