NAB 2008: Broadcasters Detail Mobile-DTV Progress

Say Technical Standard Will Be Ready to Go Next Year

Las Vegas -- Roughly 500 broadcasters gathered at the 2008 NAB Show here early Monday morning to discuss the prospects for delivering television signals to mobile devices using their existing digital spectrum and, according to executives actively involved in field trials of mobile-digital-TV technology, the industry should have a new standard for mobile DTV in place by next February.

National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr was on hand to applaud the efforts of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a consortium of more than 800 local TV stations that has been working to help the Advanced Television Systems Committee create a mobile-DTV standard. Rehr said mobile DTV represented a unique opportunity for local stations to grow their business, which is why the NAB has been lending the OMVC its financial support.

“Just imagine having live television on 345 million devices,” he added. “That would be awesome, and it’s going to happen.”

NBC News chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams then led a panel discussion of top broadcast executives involved in OMVC, which included ION Media Networks president and CEO Brandon Burgess; John Eck, president, NBC TV Network and Media Works, NBC Universal; Lynn Beall, executive vice president, Gannett Broadcasting; and Alan Frank, NAB Television Board chairman and president of Post-Newsweek Stations.

They proclaimed that recent field trials in San Francisco and Las Vegas have been going well, and that the OMVC is prepared to deliver a report on the trials to the ATSC by mid-May, meeting a key deadline within the standards-setting process.

The OMVC has been testing mobile-DTV systems from LG Electronics/Harris, Samsung/Rohde & Schwarz/Nokia and Thomson with the goal of proving their real-world viability to deliver mobile-DTV signals in urban markets. The LG/Harris and Samsung camps are demonstrating their systems in bus rides here at NAB. (To watch a demonstration of LG Electronics/Harris' MPH system, click here.)

“We’re here to share good news with you today,” Burgess said. “We are on track to have the technology ready for mobile DTV in time for the 2009 digital transition.” (To watch a video interview with Burgess, click here.)

Media General Broadcast Group senior VP Jim Conschafter presented a report on mobile DTV’s business potential, which BIA Financial Network has estimated could result in $2 billion of additional advertising revenue by 2012.

Cox Broadcasting VP of engineering Sterling Davis gave some detail on the field trials, which have shown viable reception at a range of 40 miles from the transmitter, driving at highway speeds, without interfering with existing broadcast signals.

Executives also discussed the programming prospects for the new service, which could be offered on a free advertising-supported basis or could wind up being a pay TV platform. Whatever the business model, Frank said, the content is likely to reflect broadcasters’ existing strengths.

“We know they want live news, traffic, weather and sports and all of the great programming that we already provide,” Frank added.

For complete coverage of the 2008 NAB Show, click here.