MCV Lays Groundwork for Subscription Model, 2011 Launch

NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES: Mobile Content Venture announced two deals today that suggests the group’s intention to charge for mobile over-the-air content. MCV is tapping Swiss conditional-access specialist Nagra-Kudelski for its encryption technology.

MCV’s announcement affirmed that it plans to launch later service this year, initially with ad-supported content. The intent to charge eventually for some level of service has been intimated by both NBC and Fox, MCV’s two major network players. Today’s announcement confirms the incorporation of encryption technology necessary for a subscription service.

“Nagra-Kudelski... will assist MCV in managing its standards-based conditional access, enabling broadcasters to encrypt content and evaluate numerous business models,” MCV’s shout-out said. “Nagra-Kudelski will also facilitate a simple user registration process for consumers, who will be offered content on an advertising-supported basis at launch.”

MCVis also teaming up with MobiTV, the Emeryville, Calif., provider of mobile content for several wireless carriers, and a pioneer in mobile TV. MCV is tapping Mobi to “develop a number of consumer applications, which will be available as part of the MCV consumer launch in late 2011.”

The Mobi technology will combine access to live broadcast TV and streaming video. MCV did not specifically say an interactive programming guide was in the works, though it said Mobi’s contribution would provide “program information.”

MCV further did deals with Dell and Samsung for the manufacture of compatible MCV receivers, presumably enabled with the Nagra-Kudelski conditional access technology. Both vendors already make receivers that decode A/153, the transmission standard for mobile over-the-air television. More such manufacturing partnerships are expected in the months ahead.

The group plans to launch Mobile DTV in 20 markets later this year. The group was formed last April at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas by Fox, NBC, ION, Belo, Cox, Gannett, Hearst, E.W. Scripps, Meredith, Post-Newsweek and Raycom. It is one of three major broadcast consortiums pushing Mobile DTV. The other two are the Open Mobile Video Coalition and the Mobile500.

The OMVC debuted at NAB 2007 with Fox, Belo, ION, Gannett, Tribune, NBC, Gray, Sinclair and Telemundo contributing 281 collective TV stations. OMVC’s ranks have since swelled to comprise more than 900 TV stations, and yesterday, it announced the addition of Samsung to its membership.

OMVC organized last year’s Mobile DTV Showcase in Washington, D.C. The five-month trial involved 23 channels of mobile over-the-air digital TV and select Sprint subscribers who received A/153-enabled receivers. The group’s membership has about 70 TV stations transmitting A/153 across the country. It unveiled a signal database listing Mobile DTV broadcasting stations yesterday. OMVC also barked several device announcements for the Consumer Electronics Show starting on Thursday in Las Vegas.

The third group pushing Mobile DTV--the Mobile500 Alliance--was formed last fall of broadcast groups comprising 340 stations in 167 U.S. markets. The Mobile500 was formed to some degree in reaction to the formation of MCV, which excluded the members of the Mobile500. The group is now working on content and consumer device arrangements, but no specifics have been announced.

-- Deborah D. McAdams