02.18.2010 02:15 PM
Who Has Mobile DTV Rights?
GarmonnuviRANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF.: Mobile DTV is more than merely a simple matter of putting an ATSC M/H signal on the air, said Bob Allen, executive vice president and general manager of KESQ-TV in Palm Springs. There’s a question of rights.

Allen, participating on a panel discussion at the HPA Tech Retreat, had been asked about licensing deals with carriers like Comcast, services such as its online Fancast platform and Hulu.com. He said that entertainment content on the network was treated as a separate entity for which the stations don’t negotiate alternative platform distribution rights.

CBS’s Robert Seidel, on the same panel, piped up and said, “or the mobile rights.”

“That’s right,” Allen responded. Mobile DTV was not just about creating the signal.

Mobile DTV has been in development for two years, much of it under the auspices of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a group of 800 broadcasters and manufacturers aiming to launch the service. Broadcasters were focused on the DTV transition during much of that two-year period before it finally concluded last June. Now, the push to launch mobile, over-the-air DTV is in full swing, with a 20-station beta commercial launch in Washington, D.C. expected to happen in the spring.

Mobile DTV represents another potential revenue stream for broadcasters, who’ve long been locked into on-air advertising as the sole source of their income. The single-stream model proved nearly disastrous last year when the auto industry imploded and slashed its massive TV spending. Online platforms generate minimal revenues compared to TV, and retransmission consent, while helpful, is also controversial and reliant on regulations.

Meanwhile, spending on mobile platforms is the next big growth category for advertising according to media researchers. The Kelsey Group in Princeton, N.J. pegs it at $3.1 billion within three years, compared to $160 million for 2008. That prognostication was put forth last March, when 63 TV stations anticipated going mobile by the end of 2009. As of earlier this month, there were yet only 30.

Part of the reason is the lack of reception devices on the market. One engineer transmitting ATSC M/H in Los Angeles couldn’t even get a hold of a prototype to test his own signal. But other factors affecting a delay in the roll-out of mobile DTV have to do with the uncertainty surrounding content rights, as well as the fact that most broadcasters have already used up their bit pipe with HD and multicast streams.

“One HD stream at 12 Mbps, two SD multicasts at 3 Mbps each; PSIP and overhead in the remainder of bandwidth,” one station engineer writes. “Done, finished, no more room for mobile DTV.”

Those 3 Mbps multicast streams are at least starting to provide some revenues, and many TV stations have contracted carriage for third-party diginets like This TV and RTN. It’s not like swapping out the static weather map to do an ATSC M/H feed. Affiliates need to know what the networks expect, and whether they even want stations to do mobile DTV, before multicast diginet deals get done.

As 20 TV stations in Washington, D.C. prepare for a commercial beta launch of mobile DTV this spring, others are on hold.

“We are fishing to try to get an understanding of whether or not we are wasting our time on mobile DTV,” an affiliate executive said.
-- Deborah D. McAdams

Post New Comment
If you are already a member, or would like to receive email alerts as new comments are
made, please login or register.

Enter the code shown above:

(Note: If you cannot read the numbers in the above
image, reload the page to generate a new one.)

Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Thu, 02-18-2010 04:52 PM Report Comment
Finally, the elephant in the room has been called out! Bravo Deb for the insight to ask the (seemingly) difficult question. Now I guess the industry needs to see if the question of 'rights' gets answered. Are the Networks in, or are they out? (is the question really as simply as that?) Seems that the technical part of getting Mobile DTV may have been the easy part. Now that broadcasters can 'do' Mobile DTV, do they have the 'rights' to 'do' it?
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Thu, 02-25-2010 12:12 PM Report Comment
The easy answer would be to say "it's simple, broadcasters have the rights, don't need to consult anyone". But if they take that approach, mobile DTV will never happen. So my advice is, get beyond the posturing as quickly as possible.
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Mon, 02-22-2010 03:10 PM Report Comment
Good lord! TV is evolving. I didn't see any program providers their rate as TV audiences went to other places. I say, as long as it's an ATSC tuner, the format is nothing more than a DTV in a different package. I don't give a s*** if they put an ATSC tuner in a toilet paper roll and make each sheet a disposable LCD panel.. It's STILL just an extension of the same station, same format, same audience. If the new technologies and web streaming don't kill broadcasting, the program providers and greedy SOB's certainly will! THEN who will pay for their lame programming?! DallasDan
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Mon, 02-22-2010 04:48 PM Report Comment
The big networks ABC, CBS, NBC, AND PBS should have no problem allowing the local broadcasters to show on a mobile or handheld television an ATSC M/H version of the regular ATSC HD channel. In the NTSC days we could take our portable tiny tube TVs and watch a 10 inch version of what we watched at home on our 30 inch bigscreen tube televisions. Why is everyone in the television industry trying to make this harder than it has to be? Keep it up and every broadcast station will be reduced to one SD channel each, due to the frustration of people who would support FREE Over The Air TV if it did not seem like someone somewhere is trying to get more money out of what should be a simple advertiser supported operation. The advertisers were happy with the extra tiny TV viewers in the NTSC days, they should be just as happy with the tiny LCD viewers of ATSC M/H today. Mess this up with silly petty squabbles and the CTIA cell phone lobbyists will get your spectrum. They will use it to provide spectrum for the great demand for fixed base broadband service for peole who cannot get access to the internet by cable, dsl, or fttx, because those services are not offered in the remote region they live in.

Thursday 11:07 AM
The Best Deconstruction of a 4K Shoot You'll Ever Read
With higher resolutions and larger HD screens, wide shots using very wide lenses can be a problem because they allow viewers to see that infinity doesn’t quite resolve into perfect sharpness.

Featured Articles
Discover TV Technology