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Mainstream press 'discovers mobile TV'

Lacking the digital TV switch to preoccupy them, the mainstream press discovered mobile TV last week, thanks to QUALCOMM's FLO TV launch.

The LA Times has been all over it, albeit with coverage that sounds behind the times — like on June 9 when it published a story about the glorious future in store in "a world in which we access live television not just on big screens in our living rooms, but also on cellphones and computers and in cars."

However, while FLO TV rolls out on cell phones, the long-awaited digital TV conversion clears the way for ATSC mobile/handheld TV to go forward. And the bad economy might supply a kick in the pants for mobile phone carriers to start offering ATSC-equipped tuners, says Telegent VP of marketing Diana Jovin.

South American mobile phone carriers Peru Telefonica and Claro Argentina recently began selling handsets equipped with Telegent's analog/digital terrestrial TV receivers, even though they don't gain additional service revenue.

"We had an opportunity to talk about why they're carrying those handsets," Jovin says. "In Argentina, carriers are prohibited from being TV broadcasters. Claro's perspective is to provide high value for a low cost. By providing features that are in high demand, they can expand the market for other value-added services."

Peru Telefonica shares that long-term view, says Jovin. "It's the value of growing a customer base over time. You have people using a handset more. The way Telefonica is branding this handset illustrates how cell phone operators can realize value from free-to-air mobile TV," she says.

Jovin herself had an opportunity to take advantage of the usefulness of being able to receive terrestrial TV broadcasts on her handset. While she was in Argentina, there was a strike going on. "I could watch the news while I was in a taxi, and I could decide which route to take."