Mobile Video

CES 2011: Mobile DTV Ready for Prime Time?

LAS VEGAS -- 2011 International CES -- The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), an alliance of 900 local broadcasters, is teaming up with fellow consortia, the Mobile Content Venture and the Mobile500 Alliance, to make International CES a hotbed of mobile digital-TV activity.

After months of trials and a few false starts, mobile digital TV on the ATSC-Mobile/Handheld broadcast standard is set to launch in 20 major markets this year, according to OMVC executive director Anne Schelle. So this year's CES will have double the number of DTV-capable devices on display that last year's show had, with two dozen devices ranging from smartphones, to tablets and in-vehicle displays. (See CTIA 2010: Mobile TV Vendors Learn From FLO TV.)

When the service does go live, however, there will only be three embedded devices and a couple of channels actually available. Schelle, though, says many more will follow, as the group has the backing of several big names, including LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Samsung Corp. , Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) and Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS). The OMVC is also welcoming non-broadcast members (such as app developers and content providers) to join through a new forum.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has been a past supporter of the group, but the other wireless operators haven't signed on to embed the required chipsets in their handsets. However, Schelle insists interest is high. "How can you not be interested when you have media companies and broadcasters making announcements, and manufacturers coming on board?" she asks (rhetorically).

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Why this matters
Wireless operators have reasons to doubt the mobile-TV revolution following high-profile failures such as Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s FLO TV. Most also already offer their own service and may be reluctant to take on the cost of a new chipset, which could relegate mobile DTV to a direct-to-consumer play. (See FLO TV Alive, But Not Well.)

That being said, the model is starting to resonate with consumers in the U.S. as it has abroad. DTV's main appeal is that it delivers the content consumers already know, free of charge, but with the potential to add other premium services. As operators continue to tie the phone to the TV and promote the concept of content on the go, they may warm up to DTV if broadcasters can hold consumers' interest.

Mobile DTV will be a service to watch (no pun intended) as it continues to build its ecosystem and court the carriers.

For more
For more on mobile TV's progress -- or lack of it -- in the U.S., check out the following stories:

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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