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Mobile TV dead but won’t lie down - US signal now reaches 66% of homes

The OMVC has a new mantra – “Mobile DTV will reach 77 million households, two thirds of US homes, by the end of 2011


Published: 14 April, 2011


The OMVC has a new mantra – “Mobile DTV will reach 77 million households, two thirds of US homes, by the end of 2011.” Its old mantra, that it was already available on 76 stations, throughout 32 markets, is now officially retired. The OMVC is the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a group of broadcasters which has said very little this past 12 months, except spout its original mantra.

But over the next 12 months we expect it to do more than spout the new one. This is the way of broadcast mobile TV, the idea of setting up a separate broadcast system to send TV signals to phones, instead of sending them over the cellular network.

The world, and the US in particular, is broadly split into two camps – and here at Faultline we think they both have a future – that is people who think that the way to get content to a portable device is through WiFi or Cellular – networks which already exist, and that it should be delivered on a one to one unicast basis, and those who think that TV on phones should emulate TV development and go over the air as a broadcast first on a new broadcast medium, before the equivalent of VoD is introduced.

From a user perspective there is no real need to have linear broadcasts to handsets and tablets, because one of its main purposes is for scheduled programming to a) deliver adverts and b) get people to be interested in a particular series so that they can watch it catch up in future. TV already gives us the ability to view new content we didn’t know about, and social networks point us to catch up content that we should have watched which our peer groups tell us about. So VoD conceptually is ALL that anyone wants on a phone or a tablet. Is that right?

Well if that was right, then why are the 43 channels that Time Warner Cable is delivering as linear channels on its iPad application, so contentious. If no-one was going to watch them, why go to court over it (see separate story). The same goes for the 300 channels that Cablevision plans to deliver in the same way – through WiFi to the iPad.

Certainly there are many instances “when you are watching TV” when you want to catch what’s on another channel, without interrupting the football, baseball, basketball that Dad is watching on the main TV set. So perhaps linear DOES have a place on the tablet. You might also want that when you are away from home. Right now these particular iPad apps only allow you to watch through the broadband line of the operator providing pay TV to the home, but that’s a rights dust up, and not really relevant to what consumers want.

The lessons from Japan and Korea, where broadcast mobile TV networks are the norm, with over 80 million users in Japan, are still valid in the US and the west, if and when the same conditions apply. And that is that if you host a live event, such as a popular sporting event and broadcast it live to handsets or other portable devices – if you use a unicast technology it will break your network. It still almost breaks broadband fixed networks when this happens, so it would certainly break a cellular network, unused to volume video.

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