Four public broadcasters join Mobile500 Alliance

Four additional public television licensees — WTTW/Chicago, Maryland Public Television, Public Broadcasting Atlanta and New Mexico PBS — have joined the Mobile500 Alliance, the group said April 12.

The public broadcasters join three other public stations already in the alliance: MHz Networks/Washington, D.C., WGBH/Boston and Twin Cities Public Television/Minneapolis-St. Paul. WGBH, Public Broadcasting Atlanta, and New Mexico PBS are already broadcasting Mobile DTV.

The Mobile500 Alliance includes 50 commercial and public station groups with 437 full-power television stations. Together, the member stations reach 94 percent of U.S. television households with their regular DTV signals.

The decision to join Mobile500 came after the WTTW board formed a special committee to consider the best options for using WTTW's broadcast spectrum, said Dan Schmidt, president and CEO of WTTW/Chicago.

"We concluded that Mobile DTV held the most promise for extending our brand and services to new audiences, and we liked the open, entrepreneurial approach of Mobile500," he said.

"Under FCC rules, public stations can fully participate financially in digital services like MDTV, and Mobile500 creates a pathway for them to do that," said John Lawson, Mobile500's executive director. Lawson was president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations from 2001 to 2008 and is actively recruiting public stations to the ranks of Mobile500.

Mobile500 has put together a complete system for monetizing Mobile DTV using the ATSC A/153 technical standard. The alliance's system will enable its member broadcasters to build new revenue streams through Mobile DTV. Following commercial soft launches in Seattle and Minneapolis in June, Mobile500 will make the system available to all its member companies.

The Mobile500 system for MDTV includes an application for iOS devices that supports audience measurement, guide data, channel logos, interstitial ads and banner ads. Live recording and time shifting of OTA MDTV content will be included through DVR-style functionality built into the app.

The solution also includes new tuner devices, which are small adapter/dongles for iPads and iPhones. They will be available through online retailers in the summer of 2012.