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IDC white paper makes case for mobile DTV

Mobile DTV offers a spectrum-efficient way to reach millions of people with live news, sports, entertainment and emergency alerts, and it should be viewed as a complementary service to unicast streaming video offered by wireless Internet service providers, according to a white paper released last week by IDC.

Sponsored by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), the paper lays out the case for mobile DTV doing what broadcast does best, namely reaching a mass audience via a single source with popular video content. Over the years, broadcast TV has become “part of the fabric of our culture,” and mobile DTV is likely to extend the reach of broadcast TV to millions of new viewers, it says.

The white paper, “Assessing the Mobile DTV Opportunity and Its Role in the United States’ Communications Ecosystem,” contends that relying on the unicast model employed by cell phone networks — even 3G and 4G networks — is cost-prohibitive for delivering video to large audiences because it “was not designed to serve broadcast-sized audiences simultaneously.”

Mobile DTV, on the other hand, with its one-to-many approach, can provide a spectrum-efficient means of delivering a significant portion of the most popular news, entertainment and sports. According to the paper, 97 percent of the top 100 shows last year originated with broadcast networks. So while the broadcast channels on pay TV service tiers are relatively few in number, they are responsible for the vast majority of popular programming, it says. Mobile DTV, too, can serve as a spectrum-efficient means to deliver such content to viewers on the move, while cellular or other two-way connections used together with mobile DTV can deliver complementary services, such as VOD, user-generated content, and enhance interactivity and commerce.

According to IDC, the top six types of content people express the greatest interest in watching on mobile devices are those normally associated with local broadcasters and broadcast networks: breaking news, such as reports of disasters; emergency reports, such as stories of school closings and severe weather; weather reports; local and regional news stories; live events, such as reports of election results; and traffic reports. Those were followed by national news, sitcoms, dramas, national sports, local and regional sports, reality programs, variety programs and soap operas.

The release of the report came in the same week the FCC presented its long-awaited National Broadband Plan to Congress. The commission’s plan calls for broadcasters to give up 120MHz for spectrum to make way for new wireless broadband Internet service to meet anticipated future demand.

According to the paper, 45 broadcasters have made the necessary modifications to their DTV RF transmission infrastructure to launch mobile DTV service. That number is expected to grow to 150 stations this year, it says.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.