Local TV

NAB 2010: Broadcasters Announce National Mobile DTV Joint Venture

A dozen major station groups team up for national service, aim to reach 150 million U.S. residents 4/13/2010 03:40:00 PM Eastern

NAB
2010: Complete Coverage from B&C

A dozen major TV groups are teaming up to provide content and spectrum
for a national mobile DTV service called Pearl Mobile DTV Company LLC.
Belo, Cox, Fox, Gannett
Broadcasting, Scripps, Hearst Television, ION Television, Media General
Inc., Meredith Corp., NBC, Post-Newsweek Stations, and Raycom Media will
get together to form a "standalone joint venture," according to an
announcement at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Spectrum for the
service will come from the Fox, Ion and NBCU/Telemundo
owned-and-operated stations, as well as the nine other groups.

The

service will reach 150 million U.S. residents, said the companies, and
content will include "live and on-demand video, local and national news
from print and electronic sources, as well as sports and entertainment
programming," according to the groups.

TVNewsCheck reported in
December that Gannett, Media General, Hearst Television, Cox, Belo,
Scripps, Ion Media, Raycom and Post-Newsweek had formed a joint venture
called the "Pearl Project," which was seeking to use its scale to raise
capital and cut deals with carriers, receiver manufacturers, retailers,
programmers and advertisers.

The announcement comes against the
backdrop of the FCC's plan to encourage broadcasters to give up spectrum
for wireless broaband, but broadcasters are looking to pool and
leverage their own spectrum to be players in the new media space.

"The

venture is designed to complement the Federal Communication
Commission's (FCC) National Broadband Initiative by giving consumers
mobile access to video content while reducing congestion of the nation's
wireless broadband infrastructure," the companies said Tuesday. "In
addition, the service's mobile content network will have the capacity to
deliver local and national time-sensitive emergency information to
citizens across the U.S."

"Local broadcasters are the backbone of
the U.S. media industry," said David J. Barrett, President and CEO of
Hearst Television Inc., in announcing the venture's official launch.
"This sharing of content, broadcast spectrum, marketing resources and
capital is unprecedented, and underscores U.S. broadcasters' commitment
to bringing vital local news, weather, and emergency information to
increasingly mobile U.S. consumers. This is a critically important
initiative that holds great promise for our audiences and the television
industry. This is truly the next generation of local television
service."

"This initiative offers a path for the next generation
of video consumption, and will help the FCC in its goal of ensuring
efficient and reliable broadband service for US consumers," added John
Wallace, President, NBC Local Media, in an announcement issued from the
convention.

In a speech to the NAB convention earlier Tuesday
(Apr. 13), FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a shout out to mobile
DTV and said he thought broadcasters would be able to provide that
service and turn over some spectrum for wireless broadband if they
chose.

Genachowski said it was a "myth" that the spectrum reclamation
plan would kill mobile DTV.

"I'm pleased that the DTV transition
has enabled the development of standards and the launch of market trials
for mobile DTV," he said in his keynote speech. "Our job is not to
predict innovation or business models, but to enable them.  Under the
incentive auction plan, broadcasters will be able to provide mobile DTV,
both licensees that choose to retain all 6 megahertz, and those that
choose to share."



NAB President Gordon Smith said Monday at the
conference that some 150 stations will be on the air with mobile DTV by
the end of the year. A trial of mobile DTV service is scheduled to begin
May 2 in D.C. Smith said that test will help broadcasters' lobying
efforts because it will "enable us to go to Congressional offices and
show them the future."  Smith also told B&C last week he was
skeptical of the claims that broadcasters could do mobile DTV and give
up spectrum.



Sandy Schwartz, president of the Cox Media Group,
told B&C in an interview that other broadcasters have
expressed interest in joining the current dozen members. He said he
thinks the new venture, which is currently in the "memorandum of
understanding" stage, is willing to take on some new members, but not
right away. "Probably right now simply because what we need to do is get
moving very quickly. The bigger the group is the more difficult it is
to move forward."
 
He said there were no contracts in place with
cellular carriers to put the TV tuners in their phones, but adds "I
think we have gotten nothing but positive feedback."
 
He said
that with the memorandum of understanding now in place, they would be
"hard at work starting today" to hammer out the formal agreement in "the
next several months." But he also said that he didn't think they would
be waiting for that agreement to get things moving. "I think there are
some things we can do while the lawyers are hammering out the definitive
agreement."

"Mobile, and maybe the better word is
'portable,' is a fundamental premise for the future of our consumer
behaviour and we need to be able to take our programming where consumers
are, and this does that," David Lougee, president of Gannett
Broadcasting, told B&C.
 
"We felt very much that this
needed to be a massive play pulling together the best of national and
local content bringing together the best of national and local content
along with the digital distribution system that we have already invested
in."
 
He also said that massive play should be the trigger for
cellular carriers and tech companies to get on board. "I think now that
we have this venture put together, on parallell paths to finalizeing
the memorandum of understanding will be engaging with device
manufacturers and wireless carriers."

Glen Dickson contributed
to this story.

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