1-10-09-mobile_dtvEarlier today, a final mobile digital television broadcast standard— Mobile DTVwas adopted by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC). Today, the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), which includes over 800 broadcast stations announced it was going forward to deliver digital program services to consumers-based devices, from mobile phones to in-car systems.

To show off what could be possible, the OMVC today drove government officials around on a bus through Washington DC, showing them the transmission of several local TV stations on Mobile DTV equipped mobile phones, laptops, and netbooks. The OMVC has apparently been working with broadcasters and device OEMs to support the ATSC in development of a Mobile DTV standard to be deployed across product consumer electronics segments and broadcasters. OEMs that have produced prototypes so far include LG, Samsung, Harris, Rohde & Schwarz and Dell. Some of these may have been on the bus today. Samsung and LG had been proposing two different standards to the ATSC up until last spring, but have now united around Mobile DTV. Samsung also announced today a single-chip solution for Mobile DTV applications.

Mobile DTV will use existing 6MHz broadcast channels to transmit a programming to mobile devices, and are not expected to interfere with existing HD and multicast services. Other mobile services that will be available include:

  • Live audio feeds
  • Clip casting for sports and news highlights
  • Time-shifted programming
  • Mobile digital video recording
  • Datacasting with traffic maps
  • Electronic service guide (ESG)
  • Pushed VOD (Video On Demand)
  • E911 alerts customized by market or location
  • Closed captioning capabilities
  • Interactive polling
  • Electronic coupons
  • Targeted advertising

Mobile DTV will extend television viewing capabilities to consumers who will be able to view broadcast, timeshifted, and VOD content— according to the OMVC— “anywhere, anytime, and at any speed,” which includes the backseat of a moving car.

OMVC member companies include:

  • Association of Public Television Stations
  • Belo
  • Capitol Broadcasting Company
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Cox Television
  • Dispatch Broadcast Group
  • Fisher Communications
  • FOX
  • Freedom Broadcasting
  • Gannett Broadcasting
  • Gray Television
  • Hearst Argyle Television
  • ION Media Networks
  • LIN TV
  • McGraw-Hill Broadcasting
  • Meredith
  • MHz Networks
  • Morgan Murphy Media
  • Media General
  • NPG Broadcast Division
  • NBC Universal (including the NBC Station Group and Telemundo)
  • Peachtree TV
  • Post-Newsweek Stations
  • Public Broadcasting Service
  • Raycom Media
  • Schurz Communications
  • Scripps Television Station Group
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group
  • Sunbeam Television

OMVC member associations include:

  • AMST (Association for Maximum Service Television)
  • NAB (National Association of Broadcasters)

Consumers today can view TV broadcasts on select AT&T and Verizon Wireless phones via QUALCOMM’s FLO TV network, although it’s a paid service  backed by Qualcomm. However, the FLO service is a paid service offering from the carriers, and delivers national rather than local content. Take up on these services to date has been very light.

So will Mobile DTV lead to yet another distraction in our cars with today’s proliferation of texting, emailing, tweeting, dialing, and talking on cell phones? I expect some states to look at this seriously and possibly widen their definitions of distractive activities while driving. Especially if many of the devices make their way to the front seat, like mobile phones, portable navigation units, and removable car entertainment systems with Mobile DTV capabilities (they need to be removable due to theft). It’s common for insurance companies to subpoena phone records in accident cases to see if people are texting or talking at the time of the crash. How will you tell if they are watching TV? At least with the FLO service it was going over the same carrier network that sent the voice call and text message.———

Content will actually drive this market, and it depends on whether broadcasters will deliver the content that consumers want, and time shifted on their schedule. QUALCOMM’s FLO service wasn’t able to recreate the DVR experience in a mobile environment. Now if they can equip the T in Boston and the buses, I’d rather watch things on the big screen for certain programming, like stock news, weather, and sports games, saving the other content for my portable device. Will I watch Mobile DTV on commuter rail? You bet! In a car though? I’m not sure, but the kids in the backseat will love it, adding to the DVD players and iPods used on longer rides.

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-Randy Giusto

randygiusto@newdigitalcafe.com