Amid patent row, LG drops support for U.S. ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard

Mike Wheatley

LG Electronics was one of the first TV brands in the world to support ATSC 3.0 tuners in its TVs when it did so back in 2020, but now the company will become the first to stop doing so. This week, it revealed that its 2024 TV models will not come with next generation ATSC 3.0 4K tuners.

The company explained that this is not due to problems with the technology, but rather, it’s about money. LG lost a long patent battle lawsuit against Constellation Designs, and it means it now has to pay royalties on each ATSC 3.0 tuner of $7 rather than the $3 it had been paying.

While that is not a lot of cash when you consider that LG’s best OLED TVs can cost thousands of dollars or pounds, LG has decided it’s not a price it wants to pay.

FlatPanels HD reported that LG told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a statement that the “challenging and uncertain patent landscape” has forced it to make a “difficult decision” to suspend the inclusion of ATSC 3.0 tuners in its 2024 TVs in the U.S.

It’s notable that LG is using the word “suspend”, as it’s asking the FCC to investigate and recognize that the actions of certain patent holders – namely, Constellation Designs – present risks that will impact the ongoing deployment of the ATSC standard.

The ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV standard is rapidly being rolled out across the U.S. by a number of broadcasters, with signals now available to more than 60% of homes there. It’s a newly conceived standard for broadcasting transmissions in the U.S. that will make it possible to support 4K resolution, HDR and surround sound such as Dolby Atmos, so it’s a pretty big deal. In addition, the standard also supports interactive content, data casting and emergency alerts via a hybrid web link.

Obviously, these are significant benefits to the U.S. broadcast industry, but LG has in any case only introduced its support for the standard slow. While the technology is supported in its higher-end G, M and Z series OLED TVs, the LG A, B and C series OLED models have never been equipped with ATSC 3.0 tuners.

LG’s decision to suspend support for the tech will be a blow to a broadcasting industry that is already struggling to contend with rival video streaming services. Last year, it was reported that combined broadcast and cable viewing made up less than 50% of all viewing in the U.S. for the first time, with streaming content surging in popularity. With LG declining to support its latest standard, the industry comes under even more pressure.

Now, all eyes are on other TV brands, such as Samsung and Sony, to see if they will also drop ATSC 3.0 from their 2024 televisions. Earlier this year, MediaTek announced it had created an ATSC 3.0 tuner that it would make available to brands that sell lower-end TVs, who probably won’t like the increased royalties they have to pay either.

The loser here is the consumer. As the leading video streaming services begin to embrace advertising and raise their prices at the same time, it’s clear that viewers need more competition, not less.