The high-definition television standards defined by the ATSC produce wide screen 16:9 images up to 1920×1080 pixels in size – more than six times the display resolution of the earlier standard. However, many different image sizes are also supported. The reduced bandwidth requirements of lower-resolution images allow up to six standard-definition "subchannels" to be broadcast on a single 6 MHz TV channel.
ATSC standards are marked A/x (x is the standard number) and can be downloaded for free from the ATSC's website at ATSC.org. ATSC Standard A/53, which implemented the system developed by the Grand Alliance, was published in 1995; the standard was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in the United States in 1996. It was revised in 2009. ATSC Standard A/72 was approved in 2008 and introduces H.264/AVC video coding to the ATSC system.
ATSC supports 5.1-channel surround sound using Dolby Digital's AC-3 format. Numerous auxiliary datacasting services can also be provided.
Many aspects of ATSC are patented, including elements of the MPEG video coding, the AC-3 audio coding, and the 8VSB modulation. The cost of patent licensing, estimated at up to $50 per digital TV receiver, has prompted complaints by manufacturers.
As with other systems, ATSC depends on numerous interwoven standards, e.g. the EIA-708 standard for digital closed captioning, leading to variations in implementation.