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Broadcasters enter new phase in mobile digital TV push

The Mobile Content Venture group plans to scramble signals and require consumers to register

By Stephen Lawson
January 12, 2012 08:02 AM ET

IDG News Service - A mobile TV effort by local broadcasters in the U.S. is entering a new phase, with two large groups of stations showcasing new partnerships at the International Consumer Electronics Show, but the initiative still faces major hurdles.

TV stations covering much of the U.S. are gearing up to deliver programming to phones and other devices using a standard from the body that oversees TV technology in North America. Mobile Content Venture (MCV) and the Mobile500 Alliance, both of which include scores of stations across the country, have new deals with equipment vendors and, in one case, a mobile operator. But devices that can receive such programming are still scarce.

MCV is closest to a commercial launch with its Dyle Mobile TV service, as stations in 32 markets are already broadcasting. The group, which includes NBC, Fox, Univision and other large broadcasting groups, aims to offer at least two channels in each market. However, there are no firm dates on when the first client devices that can use the service -- a Samsung phone, a series of RCA portable TVs and a variety of Belkin adapters -- will be in consumers' hands. And because MCV plans to scramble its content, mobile TV receivers that consumers already have won't work with its service.

A trying time for TV

Traditional TV broadcasters face challenges on several fronts, including Web-based video services such as Hulu, video-on-demand services such as NetFlix and a growing array of viewing options from cable operators and telecommunications carriers. All those rivals are already taking strides in the mobile arena, while over-the-air TV on phones has made slow progress.

The ATSC Mobile DTV standard from the Advanced Television Standards Committee was completed in 2009, and the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) has been pushing for use of the specification to deliver live local broadcasts and other content since CES 2010.

Using ATSC, Mobile DTV, stations can broadcast shows over a portion of their existing channels. After a test in the Washington, D.C., area showed mobile TV consumers most liked to watch local programming such as news, the backers of ATSC Mobile DTV promoted it as a way for local stations to bring familiar programming at scheduled times to viewers who are away from their TVs. They contrasted this with Qualcomm's FLO TV service, which offered a lineup of national channels with its own program schedule. Qualcomm discontinued FLO TV last year and is in the process of selling its spectrum to AT&T.

The mobile DTV pitch at CES 2010 also included receivers, such as an LG DVD player, a Wi-Fi hotspot called the Tivit (later Tivizen), mobile TVs and USB dongles. They were designed to pick up unscrambled live broadcasts.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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