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The Pearl of the West – MCV has the CV to wake US up to mobile TV

The Pearl initiative, which we said in April would be the first nationwide US mobile TV network using the ATSC M/H broadcast protocol, says that it no

By PETER WHITE

Published: 25 November, 2010

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The Pearl initiative, which we said in April would be the first nationwide US mobile TV network using the ATSC M/H broadcast protocol, says that it now has firm plans for its market launch during 2011. It will launch under the three letter acronym of MCV, which stands for Mobile Content Venture, and reach 40% of the US population during 2011.

It says that it will offer at least two ad supported channels in what are some of the biggest markets in the US including New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washinton DC, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Tampa, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Orlando, Portland, Cincinnati, Greenville, West Palm Beach, Birmingham and Knoxville. After that it will grow into more territories and offer more channels, it said.

At Faultline we don’t think that it will be the only national network. A comment made back in October by US broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the biggest independent broadcasting groups in the US, and an affiliate of both Fox and ABC, said that by the end of 2011 there will be up to 500 mobile TV stations reaching at least 65% of the US population.

That’s fighting talk from a company not currently a member of MCV and not aware at that point of MCV’s detailed plans. Either Sinclair plans to join this consortium or at least two groupings will jockey for position as the dominant national mobile broadcast network.

In the US there are four broadcast networks which consider themselves national and which attract many affiliates to broadcast the same content outside of the station owned territories and these are NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.

MCV already embraces two of these in Fox and NBC and the rest of the group is brought up by Belo, Cox Media, Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst TV, ION TV, Media General, Meredith, Post-Newsweek Stations and Raycom Media. It’s a powerful collective. ABC, which is owned by Disney cannot afford to be left out of a mobile TV war in the US, and CEO Robert Igor has already shown that he is behind being engaged in as many “online” initiatives as possible to ensure Disney does not miss the online boat. On the other hand Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest individual shareholder At Disney and obviously considers that the best route to market for portable video is through WiFi and 3G in a paid model.

The result is likely to mean that any online initiative that is not owned by Disney is one that it can afford to join last, when the other national broadcasters have shown the way. It was the case at Hulu that Disney’s great weight of content meant it was able to decide late and joint the party as a full member, long after the other founder members had shown the way.

This leaves CBS left in no mans land. It either gets a rival group to coalesce around its own content, offers to partner with ABC and bring it into the game or joins MCV. But like Disney it may decide it has enough to bring to the party to enter late, though we think this is less clear than in Disney’s case.

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