You’ll be forgiven if you’re not aware of a thing called NextGen TV. (And even more so if you’re not aware that it’s also part of a broadcast TV standard called ATSC 3.0.) You’re less forgiven if you haven’t installed an over-the-air antenna in your home because that’s very much something we think you should do in 2024.
And now you’ll have a little more impetus to care about both of those things, as a company called Roxi (they spell it ROXi) has partnered with broadcast giant Sinclair to bring music (and music video) channels to ATSC 3.0-capable televisions.
Roxi comes in a couple of flavors. It’s available as a traditional smart TV app that you install and launch on any of the usual suspects: Fire TV, Roku — wherever it’s available. But the ATSC 3.0 component is fairly ingenious. You, the viewer, won’t have to install anything. Instead, you’ll tune to a Roxi channel just like you would to ABC, NBC, or any other broadcast channels you can get over the antenna where you live. ATSC 3.0 carries more information in that broadcast data stream than ATSC 1.0 (which itself does have a little more than just the video and audio), and it uses that to fire up a web view that then installs a “transitory” app. (Think of it as temporary, basically.) Roxi CEO Rob Lewis referred to it as “hijacking” in our demo at CES 2024, and he’s not wrong.
But it’s also not nearly as scary as that sounds. It’s just that Roxi is using the broadcast signal in a new way that takes advantage of the technology for something more than just better resolution and audio.
And the really important part, Lewis continually stressed to me, is that the whole experience has to be fast. It has to feel like you’re changing channels on a TV, otherwise it’s going to ruin the experience — and perhaps the illusion — of the whole being being done via an over-the-air antenna.
And that illusion mostly held in our brief demo. Click over to the Roxi channel, and Taylor Swift was very swiftly doing her thing. Three channels are available at launch, but Lewis said the music channels are just the start of what will eventually be available as Roxi expands thanks to that partnership with Sinclair. Home shopping is one example that they’re strongly pushing.
So, too, is a sort of next-generation way to watch linear — and local — programming, with the equivalent of chapter markers (think what you see on YouTube) that would allow you to, for example, skip over part of a local newscast that you’re not at all interested in, all using the Roxi infrastructure.
“Our partnership with Sinclair will revolutionize what Broadcast TV means for millions of households across the U.S.,” Lewis said in a press release. “Viewers will get instant access to TV music channels that feature the interactivity and capabilities of a music app without having to download or launch an app. Our viewers will be able to pause, play and skip on Broadcast TV for the first time. It is a true revolution in linear TV.”
And it won’t be limited to only Sinclair-owned channels, of which there are many. Sinclair will be responsible for getting Roxi outside of the Sinclair sphere of influence, too.
The traditional app version of Roxi currently has a good bit more in it. There are free and premium versions — the latter gets rid of all the advertising that makes any of this possible in the first place — as well as options for karaoke and a sort of party queue made available by QR codes so anyone watching can chime in on what to play next. And for artists who don’t have music videos — say, Elvis — Roxi has licensed artwork from Getty Images to create music videos with photos on the fly, which is a really nice touch.
There are some obvious hurdles here on the broadcast side of Roxi. You’ll need an ATSC 3.0-capable television, of course, and not all manufacturers have been gung-ho about adopting that standard. (Some have eschewed it, others embraced it. And external tuner companies like Tablo aren’t touching it until things shake out.) Then there’s the question of whether you actually need to mess with a NextGen TV-bootstrapped app in the first place, given that this whole thing requires an internet connection in the first place, and in that case, why not just use the proper smart TV app?
Welcome to the chicken-and-egg problem that has been and will continue to be NextGen TV and ATSC 3.0. Maybe Roxi will get more folks to use it. Maybe it won’t. But it’s at least trying to make the process a little more fun, with channels full of music and music videos like we used to have.
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