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Granite Broadcasting stakes its claim in mobile TV

After months of discussion (and limited testing) regarding the viability and attractiveness of a “TV Everywhere” service in the U.S., New York City-based Granite Broadcasting, owners of 14 network affiliated stations in the Midwest and New York state, is hoping to find out once and for all whether consumers want to watch local newscasts on their cell phones, tablets and other portable devices, and if such a service can bring new revenue.

The mid-sized broadcaster has entered into a partnership with UK-based Motive Television plc, to—later this year—deploy some type of ATSC-compliant dongle that would be inserted into mobile devices and allow them to receive Granite’s over-the-air DTV signals. Details of the plan are sketchy at this point, and no specific time line has been determined, although Leonard M. Fertig, CEO of Motive Television said it could take “months” to bring the service to initial receiver component deployment. Granite will also look to form partnerships with other broadcasters as well.

Since 2009 Motive Television has had success at extending broadcasters’ reach with a WiFi-based system (a wireless set top box in consumers’ homes) called “Television Anytime” that it has operated for Italian national broadcaster Mediaset. KOFY-DT, Granite’s independent television station serving the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif. market (and a former WB station) that typically shows syndicated programming, will begin testing this service in the spring and it will operate similar to the “TV Everywhere” platforms now offered by cable, satellite and Telco pay television providers. Subscribers can watch TV and a variety of VOD movies (that are datacast to that box) on any device in their home—as long as they are within the reach of their WiFi modern. It’s all done over-the-air (using unused “white space’ spectrum), with is no Internet connection involved. Using Mediaset’s spectrum, Motive Television’s technology gets the data to the box.

Granite is now expanding its relationship with Motive Television to form a new mobile video service called Broadcast Cloud JV (BCJV) that will use Motive’s technology and a portion of the same spectrum now used by Granite’s TV stations. Motive is porting its Television Anytime technology to allow mobile devices outside to receive Granite’s signals over the air via the ATSC A/153 Mobile Video transmission standard. The eventual goal is to provide live television, customized linear TV channels, video-on-demand, and catch-up television directly to portable.

“The U.S. television broadcasting industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past several years to convert to a digital format,” said Peter Markham, Chairman of Granite Broadcasting Corporation. “[This new service] will provide the ability to leverage that investment, communicate directly with a broad array of mobile devices and continue providing innovative new services in each local market we serve.”

The BCJV initiative will provide both facilities and local staff support for testing, pilot projects, and other trials using the technology. Granite will also contribute its management expertise, sales and marketing input and assistance in promoting the BCJV technology to the industry and will cooperate on the development of the BCJV business and strategic plan.

For its part Motive will provide an exclusive license to use its underlying datacasting technology and Motive’s staff will oversee the day-to-day management of BCJV, including engineering, and sales and marketing of the BCJV Technology, as well as coordinate licensing to third-party broadcasters, content owners and other potential partners.

“Before there was an Internet-based Cloud, there was a Broadcast Cloud, a one-to-many,

pervasive, scalable, and extremely efficient method of distributing video content,” said Motive’s Fertig. “The Broadcast Cloud has no need for hotspots, Internet connectivity or the added distribution and access costs associated with today’s Internet services; it provides content free over the air to a mass audience. With the creation of BCJV, we will… update the American broadcast distribution system and enable it to serve the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s viewers.”

Motive Television said its patent-pending “Television Anytime Anywhere” platform of technology and services enables broadcasters and Pay TV operators to generate more revenue by better utilizing existing assets without having to invest in additional distribution infrastructure. It consists of two main technologies: “Television Anytime,” which permits broadcasters to offer enhanced broadcasting services such as on-demand content without the need for the Internet; and “Television Anywhere,” that allows a viewer to interact, control and watch programming on a computer, mobile phone, iPad or any other Internet-connected device using a personal home cloud environment centralized at viewer’s living room.

The Television Anytime technology platform enables delivery of non-linear Television services from the broadcasters’ premises along with normal linear programming. Viewers receive these non-linear TV services on their STBs (Set Top Boxes). The Television Anytime Datacast/PushVoD system allows a one-way transmission of content via DVB-T/S pr ATSC. By using the flexibility of available bandwidth, different transmission bit-rates may be used, during the day and night to store content on the STB hard disk.

The company said this PushVoD functionality can also be delivered over the IP network to a hybrid STB. The platform allows recording of content on the STB hard disk from live TV—both scrambled and over the air—by sending start/stop recording commands without using expensive bandwidth to re-transmit live content. The platform works with any conditional access and digital rights management system to protect content copyrights.

“[Mobile Video service] is an excellent opportunity for broadcasters to expand their lead in providing locally and nationally relevant video content and create a number of new revenue streams for all of our partners,” Granite’s Markham said. “We are especially pleased to expand on our successful partnership with Motive, who has proven to be a global market leader in developing innovative television technology and services.”