LG drops ATSC 3.0 4K tuners from its 2024 OLED TVs and Samsung or Sony could be next
LG was one of the very first companies to bring ATSC 3.0 tuners to its TVs back in 2020 and just three years later, it’s one of the first to drop it. LG has just confirmed that its 2024 OLED TVs won’t include next-generation (“NEXGEN”) ATSC 3.0 4K tuners.
It’s not a tech problem. It’s a money problem. LG has lost its patent battle with Constellation Designs and that means the royalties payable on each ATSC 3.0 tuner have increased from three dollars to just under seven dollars.
That might not seem like a lot of money on a thousand-plus-dollar OLED TV. But LG, which is behind some of the best TVs we’ve had the chance of reviewing, clearly thinks it’s too much money.
What is LG saying about ATSC 3.0?
In a statement to the US Federal Communications Commission, as reported by FlatpanelsHD.com, LG says that “this challenging and uncertain patent landscape has forced LG to make the difficult decision to suspend the inclusion of ATSC 3.0-compatibility in its 2024 television line-up for the United States.” The word “suspend” is the key here. LG wants the FCC to investigate and “recognise that actions of certain patent holders present risks (including untenable costs) that impact the continued deployment of advanced technologies”.
The patent landscape could be one reason why LG has been taking it slow with ATSC 3.0: the tech isn’t in its A or C series TVs, which are its biggest sellers. But the decision to remove ATSC altogether does look like LG is throwing down a gauntlet. Broadcast TV in the US isn’t doing so great. To be blunt, streaming is eating its lunch – combined broadcast and cable viewing dropped below 50% of all viewing for the first time last year. And to have one of the key supporters of ATSC stop supporting it does feel like an ultimatum – nice broadcast industry you’ve got here, it’d be a shame to lose it.
It’ll also be interesting to see how other manufacturers respond to the patent fee increase. As we previously reported, MediaTek designed an ATSC 3.0 system for affordable TV firms. If those companies, and other leading manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung, choose to follow LG’s lead and suspend their ATSC plans then it could deliver a serious body blow to the emerging TV technology. And that’s likely to be bad news for us, because with streamers looking at ever more inventive ways to bring back the bad old days of cable – such as Amazon’s plans to charge extra if you want ad-free streaming on Prime Video – we need more competition in the TV viewing market, not less.
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