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In a recent column, Harry Jessell reacted to recent pronouncements of linear TV’s impending death by providing (cold?) comfort to broadcasters that their spectrum could always be used exclusively for datacasting, or simply auctioned off for other uses.
Harry’s equation of over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting’s television content as falling exclusively into the “linear TV” category, while a commonly held premise, may not tell the whole story, though. There are mechanisms by which OTA broadcasters can deliver non-linear television content, and thereby align their services more compatibly to emerging audience preferences.
The ATSC calls this form of delivery “non-real-time” (NRT) content, and although it was technically possible in ATSC 1.0, it is, like datacasting, another function that is greatly enhanced in the ATSC 3.0 standard. The proliferation of cheap digital storage (either locally or in the cloud) also makes this option more palatable now and in the future than it has been in the past.
The way this works is that the broadcast station dedicates a portion of its bandwidth to send NRT content (TV programs, movies etc.) to a receiver, which stores it somewhere and puts it on a menu that the viewer calls up and selects from as on-demand content. The content can be free with embedded (and even non-skippable) advertising included, or commercial-free/premium (paid) content to which the user subscribes or orders from the broadcaster.
In the past, this has been called “tricklecasting,” in that the content is broadcast via a slow, sidecar datastream alongside linear TV content, so