Syncbak Makes Its Case for MobileStation groups explore launching live feeds with versatile, cellular tech 10/29/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Mobile devices and tablets are a mainstream
phenomenon, with more than 225
million smartphones and tablets already at
work in American homes. But broadcasters still have
not settled on the best technology for delivering live
programming to those devices.
Most TV stations now offer apps for the delivery of
content over existing cellular networks, with many
either launching or planning to launch mobile DTV
broadcasts using a portion of their broadcast spectrum.
But a growing number of stations are also offering live
programming over cellular networks using a system
from media technology company Syncbak.
Syncbak founder and CEO Jack Perry says some 65
stations are already using the system, with another 100
waiting to install the necessary equipment. CBS, Sinclair,
Raycom, Tribune, Hoak Media, Cowles California Media,
Morgan Murphy Media, Cordillera Communications,
Northwest Broadcasting, Quincy and ComCorp are among
the 30 station groups testing or deploying the technology.
Unlike the mobile DTV broadcasters that use a part
of their spectrum to deliver programming to mobile devices,
Syncbak uses traditional cellular networks. That
means users need a reliable 3G or 4G signal, and they
also need to pay for data usage. Both approaches have
built-in capabilities for measurement, which is important
for advertising, and both are working with Nielsen.
While mobile DTV broadcasts are relatively inexpensive
to set up—requiring a $100,000-$200,000 capital outlay—
the price of Syncbak deployment might be only 10%
of that. “The cost is negligible,” notes Rich Adams, COO of
Hoak Media, which is deploying the system at all of its stations,
including one in North Platte, Neb., DMA No. 209.
Syncbak currently works with all Apple and Android
phones and devices, which allows it to reach a large audience.
In contrast, users must buy additional equipment if
they want to receive mobile DTV signals on their existing
smartphones and tablets, and mobile operators have been
reluctant to offer mobile DTV-enabled smartphones.
Both the mobile DTV broadcasts and the Syncbak
feeds overcome some important copyright and legal issues
because they are only available to those users in
a station’s DMA. That gives them a distinct advantage
over more traditional apps or mobile websites that can
often be accessed by people outside a station’s market.
Earlier in his career, Perry created technology that
enabled satellite providers to manage distant signals. In
2009, he founded Syncbak to address similar problems
in the mobile world. “Not unlike satellite, we needed to
figure out how people could get the right ABC, CBS, Fox
and NBC affiliate on their mobile phone,” he says.
In 2010, Perry raised seed capital from the Consumer
Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association
of Broadcasters. “We liked the concept of having
a technology that could maintain localism and the
geographic boundaries,” says Brian Markwalter, senior
VP of research and standards at the CEA.
Since then, the company has also been working on
expanding the available content from local newscasts to
syndicated and network fare. Currently, Perry estimates
that the average Syncbak station offers three to five hours
of programming, but that number is growing.
“Warner Bros. is working with a number of our broadcasters
to clear individual [syndicated] shows,” Perry says.
He adds Syncbak will soon have an announcement for the
availability of some primetime network content.
To deploy the system, stations install a Syncbak box that
takes the broadcast feed from the control room and embeds
authentication data into the signal, which is then sent
to the cloud. Here, the company manages which programs
have been cleared and what parts of the feed can be sent to
mobile devices. A proprietary authentication system makes
sure that only users in the right areas get the signals.
Although Syncbak has a number of advantages over
other mobile delivery platforms, most stations are experimenting
with more than one technology. “We all know
we have to be on mobile,” says Paul Dughi, president of
Cowles California Media, which is deploying Syncbak.
“But right now, everyone is experimenting and waiting to
see what will be the preeminent platform.”
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