Local Ohio station begins mobile DTV broadcasts

WCMH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbus, OH, is now simulcasting its traditional DTV broadcast channel to mobile devices, and according to Media General president and CEO Marshall Morton, the station’s parent, it’s only the beginning. The company will launch mobile DTV in as many as seven additional television markets in the next several months.

“At Media General, our greatest strength is that we have the right local content for our marketplaces,” Morton said. “Mobile DTV is an important new way to extend our reach and deliver this content to our viewers, when, where and how they want it.”

WCMH began broadcasting mobile video on Sept. 23 and is differentiating its mobile channel with unique graphics and a graphical user interface that allows for spot advertising insertions, much like cable systems do today, Media General said.

Debra Grivois, chief engineer at WCMH, said the mobile signal is being distributed via a Thomson (Thales) Paragon DCX digital transmitter with an ATSC A/153 exciter, using approximately 2.5Mb/s of spectrum, to laptops, mobile phones and other portable devices equipped with special ATSC-compatible receiver chips.

Some portable TV devices from companies like Dell, Hauppauge Digital and LG Electronics are now available with the required chipset already built in to receive the signal internally or with an external USB-type stick.

However, very few such receivers are now in the Ohio market, according to Ardell Hill, president, broadcast services at Media General, but the company wants to jumpstart the nascent market for ATSC-compatible devices. Without identifying the market, he added another Media General station will “sooner than later” begin broadcasting a mobile signal as well.

“This is the classic chicken-and-egg scenario, and we have to be the chickens and lead the way,” Hill said. “[Broadcasters] have to put some programs and services out there for the consumers to want it and for consumer electronics manufacturers to provide the required products to receive our signals.”

Hill said current research shows that mobile-equipped consumers watch more television than before and that they like the convenient access to live, local news. He also said Media General plans to provide “more than just a DTV channel simulcast” in the near future.

“We have expectations for continuing to grow products to get to the consumer, but right now consumers are looking for programs they are familiar and comfortable with and that’s what we intend to provide.”

Media General is a member of the Pearl Nine, a joint venture of nine TV station groups that is working with NBC, Fox and Ion to develop a national mobile DTV service.