Coming Soon: TV on Your Phone, No Data Plan Required

The NextGen system aims  to help local broadcasters be competitive on mobile.
Adobe Stock

Linear broadcasters can finally take full advantage of the mobile age starting this year thanks to a new effort that will bring TV to phones — without using consumers' cellular service or data plan.

This effort, an FCC-approved broadcast transmission system called NextGen, kicked off Jan. 8 at CES in Las Vegas and is set to roll out in 60 U.S. markets in 2020.

It's an upgrade of the country's free, over-the-air basic TV that local broadcast stations can opt to offer consumers for their supported TV or mobile devices, potentially bringing in new revenue streams.

At CES, 20 new TV models with NextGen support debuted from set-makers like LG, Samsung and Sony in a range of sizes and prices. The ability to receive an over-the-air TV signal on a cellphone or tablet without using a cellular service or data plan is the primary selling point.

This will bring series, news, live sports — everything on broadcast — to mobile without charges for users. (Additional capabilities include 4K and High Dynamic Range and new sound capabilities.)

There are eight test markets in the U.S., including Cleveland, Phoenix and Dallas, with more on the way, National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith said, noting: "It will provide mobility in an age where consumers want video everywhere, at anytime and on any device."

Advanced Television Systems Committee president Madeleine Noland added, "The standard can deliver a better experience for viewers and new business models for broadcasters."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.