Technology

Measuring the Mobile DTV Market

Harris Interactive, Rentrak monitor D.C. trial 7/12/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

The Open Mobile Video
Coalition, the consortium of some 900 TV stations that has been driving mobile
DTV development since 2007, is employing both qualitative and quantitative
techniques to gauge consumer feedback in its "Consumer Showcase" in Washington,
D.C., which launched in May. The data will be crucial to defining broadcasters'
business models for mobile DTV going forward.

The trial involves
nine DC-area TV stations broadcasting 23 mobile DTV channels throughout the
Washington-Baltimore viewing area, with Gannett's WUSA serving as a network
operations center. Some 160 Sprint wireless subscribers are receiving the
mobile DTV signals on specially equipped Samsung Moment cellphones, and as of
late June, another 200 consumers are now getting them on prototype Dell
netbooks with mobile DTV chips. The content ranges from local Fox and NBC
broadcast programming to digital subchannels like ThisTV to cable networks such
as CNBC and MSNBC, which are being delivered using conditional access (called
"service protection" under the mobile DTV standard).

The trial
participants are being measured qualitatively by Harris Interactive, which is
using a Facebook-style social media tool called an online community.
Participants are required to answer three or four questions a week which are
posted by a moderator, and also have the option of making voluntary comments on
the service, explains Harris Interactive VP Aaron Heffron.

"It's a great tool in
that we get directed feedback but also user-generated feedback," says Heffron.
"Users are posting their own experiences, such as ‘I'm sitting and watching Judge Judy for 15 minutes while I'm
waiting for the train.' It's kind of like a 200-person focus group."

"Consumers really
talk about what they're doing, and we get a real sense of how they're using
it," adds OMVC Executive Director Anne Schelle, who is overseeing the Showcase.

While the trial is
still in its early stages, Harris Interactive has already assembled some 4,000
comments to date and shared some initial findings. They include: nearly
two-thirds of viewing (63%) is being done "on the go," compared with
44% occurring at work or school; just one-third (33%) of viewers say they watch
mobile DTV at home. Also, just under half of viewers say they watch one or two
times a day, while under 30% of viewers say they watch three or more times a
day.

So far, participants
are reporting a lot of viewership during the day, at lunchtime and
midafternoon. Many also say they've been watching Univision's coverage of the
2010 FIFA World Cup. As the trial goes on this summer, Harris Interactive will
ask participants more detailed questions about what particular shows they're
watching and what content they would like to see on the service, as well as
whether they would be interested in a pay-TV service.

One anecdotal finding
that stands out, says Heffron, is that participants were surprised by the
picture quality of mobile DTV on small handsets.

"When people first
turned it on, they said, ‘Hey, look how sharp this picture is.' You don't get
the pixelization or loading time you have with normal streamed video."

Heffron says the
reception characteristics of mobile DTV also impressed participants.

"The mobility of it
surprised people as well," says Heffron. "They were expecting more difficulty
in reception going from place to place."

Later this month,
Harris Interactive will start to combine its qualitative findings with
quantitative measurements from Rentrak, which already measures mobile
consumption, including streaming video and text messaging, for big programmers
like NBCU. Rentrak has installed a software agent on the smartphones and
netbooks used in the trial, which captures viewing data (consumers have to opt
in) and then transmits it over an IP backchannel to its servers. Rentrak has
integrated its software with Expway's electronic service guide (ESG) technology
for the Samsung Moment phones and with Roundbox for the Dell netbooks.

"We dump the data
into our Mobile Essentials tracking systems, and it gets cleaned, homogenized,
sorted, sliced and diced numerous ways," says Rentrak Corporate President Ken
Papagan. "Not only what people are watching, but time of day, length of view
and what channels and genres. Then we take that data and match it up against
the TV listing schedules of the 23 channels. From Harris Interactive, we're
also able to match it up against the demographics of users."

He adds that Rentrak
will also be able to measure commercial viewing, including a recent "Project
Roadblock" public-service campaign against drunk driving run by the Ad Council
and Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) that featured both spots and banner
ads on the ESG. Rentrak will also measure the effectiveness of interactive ads
that OMVC plans to test in the coming months.

Papagan isn't ready
to release detailed viewing figures on the Washington trial, but says the early
data suggests users are pleased with the service and that consumers appear to
be adding mobile DTV viewing to their existing consumption patterns.

"What we are finding
is that it certainly seems that the time of day and the situation where people
are viewing is additive," says Papagan. "They're using it at times they couldn't
get to a TV screen. That's logical. At Rentrak we see this a lot as we go from
screen to screen. These new media are generally always additive as opposed to
cannibalistic."

OMVC plans to share
some of that viewing data in a report later this month, says Schelle. Further
reports on program genres and viewer demographics will follow.

The focus of OMVC's
business advisory committee, initially tasked with exploring preliminary
business models for mobile DTV, has shifted strongly to the research side with
the launch of the D.C. showcase, says Schelle. For example, OMVC will team with
TVB to produce a case study on the effectiveness of the "Project Roadblock"
campaign.

"What's important
there is looking at what's the model, and what are the extensions of CPMs to
mobile TV," she says. "What are the types of users, is it busy moms, or is it
road warriors? What are the categories?"

Some broadcasters
have complained that the OMVC's business committee stopped communicating this
spring as various OMVC members collaborated privately on forming a joint
venture to launch a national mobile DTV program service, a coalition formally
announced at NAB. Schelle says that such criticism is unfounded and that OMVC
has been "very open" about what it's doing with the D.C. showcase.

"People are never
going to be happy about everything," she says. "But we did a lot of good work
planning for D.C."

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