• From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2008 22:56:27 -0400



With a new executive director at the helm, the coalition of TV broadcasters will be all over Vegas next week, pushing the idea that in-band mobile TV could be the killer app for DTV.
By Arthur Greenwald

Beleaguered broadcasters hoping for a little good news at next week's NAB Show may just find it at a series of sessions and demos by the Open Mobile Video Coalition, TV stations owners and managers dedicated to putting TV broadcasting on wheels.

OMVC President Brandon Burgess, who is also CEO and Chairman of Ion Media Networks, will be hard to miss as he hosts or is a featured speaker at three key events focusing on emerging technical standards business opportunities for in-band mobile television-that is, mobile TV using a portion of TV stations' digital channel.

Joining Burgess in the mobile TV push will be Anne Schelle, the OMVC's new executive director.

"We're going to walk broadcasters through the technical standards and the operational and regulatory issues so they can get their services up to speed more quickly," says Schelle. A 25-year veteran of the wireless business, Schelle predicts that consumer demand for mobile video will mirror the early days of cellular phones when the rollout of digital networks allowed carriers to introduce a cornucopia of lucrative services.

"If you put a mobile TV chip in every portable device, then anybody can watch TV when and where and how they want it. It will be easy to use and at a consumer-friendly price. The business opportunity is huge."

How huge? The OMVC cites research from Gartner, Jupiter and other new media analysts suggesting that in 2008 alone, consumers will buy over 200 million video-capable portable devices, including cell phones, PDA's, media players and laptop computers.

Other studies estimate the potential revenue for mobile TV to be as high as $10 billion, equally divided between ad-supported and pay TV. (Although this research was prepared prior to the present economic downturn, many analysts predict that consumer electronics sales will outperform other sectors.)

All NAB attendees are welcome at the OMVC sessions, but they'd be well-advised to get there early. OMVC member stations now number over 800, representing nearly every major station group as well as PBS member stations. Together they reach over 103 million households in 96 of the top 100 DMAs.

The three OMVC events at NAB:

* Mobile TV: Opportunity at 100 MPH, a breakfast session featuring a video and live overview of the advantages and challenges of the commercial launch of mobile TV. NBC News correspondent Dan Abrams will MC and moderate presentations by OMVC executives. (Monday, April 14, 7:30-8:30 a.m., Las Vegas Hilton Ballroom A.)

* New Devices, New Opportunities, an NAB SuperSession showcasing the key wireless video platforms and consumer gadgets as well as a progress report on technical challenges. (Tuesday, April 15, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Las Vegas Convention Center, S222/223.)

* Coming in 2009: Mobile DTV from the Broadcast Television Industry, a panel discussion on the unique content and formats already being developed by broadcasters to exploit forthcoming DTV and mobile platforms. (Tuesday, April 15, 2-3 p.m., Las Vegas Convention Center, S21.) While Schelle says the NAB sessions will strive for specificity, her experience in launching digital cellular services taught her that consumers don't always behave as expected.

"You have to be careful not to base your ideas about tomorrow's mobile TV on what you're seeing today," says Schelle. "We knew that digital cellular would create a huge demand for e-mail and Internet data on your phone, but nobody predicted how text messaging would take off. Today, youth and young adults don't e-mail, they text."

Like Burgess and other OMVC executives, Schelle will continue her day job. She is a partner in Actium Advisors, which provides strategic and operational guidance to a wide range of wireless and digital companies.

Because the digital transition gives every broadcast station its own independent delivery system, TV stations will once again be their own gatekeepers, able to reach a wide range of receivers without passing through a cable, satellite or cellular system. Schelle thinks the sheer number of business options may prove as perplexing as they are promising.

"Part of why I'm here is to help broadcast stations to manage those choices and to get the information out as fast as possible to our members and also to the public," says Schelle. That information will include plenty of data about the best ways to leverage broadcasters' existing advantages to promote their DTV services. Examples include a long history of viewer loyalty and confidence in local TV news, not to mention the sheer popularity of hit broadcast shows.

OMVC station groups are already chomping at the bit, eager to launch digital video services. That's placed added pressure on the Advanced Television Systems Committee to accelerate its selection of the most viable mobile TV standard.

The ATSC has been running its Independent Demonstration of Viability (IDOV) field trials on the three finalists in San Francisco and Las Vegas since mid-February. The OMVC won't receive their completed report until May 15, although there are rumors that OMVC may reveal preliminary findings next week. Similarly, final announcement of a "candidate standard" is widely expected to occur this summer, even though the formal due date is Sept. 25.

The three final candidates are the A-VSB system by Samsung and Rhode & Schwartz, the MPH system by LG and Harris and the unbranded system by Thomson and Micronas.

All three candidates will be demonstrated at NAB both in static and moving locations. In addition the three systems and the IDOV evaluation process will be described in detail at a special engineering session on Saturday, April 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. in Room 226/227 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Contributing Editor Arthur Greenwald covers new media for TVNEWSDAY and writes the weekly Market Share column every Monday.

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