OMVC Kicks Tires on Mobile DTV
NAB's Smith, Fox TV's Abernethy, Gannett's Lougee, others toast Washington D.C. trial at Newseum event
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/25/2010 12:25:44 PM
Mobile DTV's Real World Test
Broadcasters Announce National Mobile DTV Joint Venture
The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) held a tire-kicking party at the Newseum in Washington May 24 to celebrate the mobile DTV trial that kicked off in D.C. at the beginning of the month.
The word from coalition bigwigs was that mobile DTV could be a business in 3-5 years. And it will need to be if it was ever going to be a businesss, said one top broadcast exec with a vested interest in the new technology.
The buzz during the reception was that there was movement toward some kind of big announcement during the four-month test of the service in the No. 9 DMA. National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith told B&C that he would not be surprised if a deal with a carrier was unveiled during the test period.
Sprint, for example, is participating through its Samsung mobile device, the Moment, which has an imbedded DTV receiver chip, but that is still described as only a test.
So far no wireless carriers have struck a deal to offer mobile DTV, but one of the reasons for the test is to collect the kind of data on potential business models -- like who is watching, where, and for how long -- that will demonstrate the value of the service.
David Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting and one of the members of the DTV joint venture unveiled at the NAB Show in April, said the trial was essentially a four-month measure of consumer behavior. He gave a shout-out to Sprint for being part of the test.
NAB's Smith called it a celebration of a new age in broadcasting, one in which he suggested broadcasters' version of free, over-the-air wireless video would need to grow side by side with cellular wireless video in the broadband ecosystem. He said it was part of the industry's charter to use spectrum in the most efficient way possible. Smith has predicted that some 150 stations will be on the air with mobile DTV by the end of the year.
Gary Shapiro, CEO of coalition member Consumer Electronics Association, was on hand as well. Smith and Shapiro have butted heads over the issue of spectrum, but Smith said that it was not a case of broadcasting vs. broadband, but of broadcasting and broadband. Shapiro said that mobile will certainly be important to broadcasting because video delivery needs to be an anywhere, anytime medium.
Jack Abernethy, who heads up the Fox TV station group, another mobile DTV joint venture partner, said he strongly agreed with the FCC's push for the "robust wireless availability of content." He added that broadcasters' mobile DTV fit that bill, and that it was "absolutely necessary" that it be a complement to the wireless phone industry's one-to-one service, which he says will never be able to feed the voracious appetite for content driven by the iPhone and iPad and Droid and laptops.
Abernethy conceded that challenges remain, including refining the technology, embedding the mobile-DTV chips in handsets and cars, and persuading distribution partners (like Sprint) to commit to the service.
The test comprises a cable-like lineup of broadcast TV stations, radio stations and cable channels including Fox News Channel, CNBC, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, E! and Food Network. At least for thist test, the cable content is also free, though behind a pretend pay wall that simulates the conditional access that would allow for both free and pay service.
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