OMVC to test consumer interest in mobile DTV in Washington, D.C.

After months of negotiations to get compatible cell phones into the hands of consumers, a group of local broadcasters preparing to launch terrestrial mobile video services this year have announced their first significant real-world test of the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV standard, set for this spring and summer.

To date there have been a few engineering tests in several markets around the country, but the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), made up of some 29 stations groups — approximately 450 commercial stations and 360 public stations — has now hired a market research firm called Harris Interactive (conductors of the famous the “Harris Poll”) to work in tandem with Rentrak, and a company that specializes in measuring consumer usage of new technology to gauge consumer interest in local mobile DTV services.

Calling it the Washington, D.C., Consumer Showcase, the OMVC said that eight local television stations there will transmit up to 20 channels of free broadcast TV programming to about 300 Sprint subscribers with new Samsung Moment cell phones. There will also be hundreds of other mobile devices — including netbook computers, accessory Wi-Fi receivers and portable DVD players — that will be distributed to viewers as well. All of these devices will have an internal receiver chip and a mobile DTV antenna that will be able to pick up these broadcasters’ DTV signals.

Mobile DTV applications to be tested include live, local television programs, interactive broadcasts made possible by the new mobile DTV standard, and emergency alerts.

During the trial, the OMVC will evaluate “quantitative and qualitative usage” for each of the selected device platforms. They are looking to see what applications generate the most interest and whether consumers are willing to pay for certain “extra” services.

OMVC, Harris Interactive and Rentrak will work together to use Harris’s Early Adopter Community (EAC) suite and Rentrak's Mobile Essentials service in order to gauge consumer viewing trend patterns. The EAC is a Web-based research tool that will survey testers regarding their attitudes and opinions about mobile DTV viewing. Test parameters to be studied include determining the most active day parts, how long viewers remain engaged, and what genres of content are most compelling and frequently viewed.

Brandon Burgess, OMVC president and ION Media Networks chairman and CEO, said the mobile DTV specification includes the ability to gather data and measure viewer activity, giving broadcasters a much better picture of consumer usage.

“We’ve selected Harris Interactive and Rentrak to perform this important service with devices that have a return channel, and we anticipate that this window into consumer behavior will help us deliver more relevant information and entertainment to viewers who are on the go,” he said.

Washington area stations participating in the OMVC Consumer Showcase include: WDCA-DT (Fox); WUSA-DT (CBS); WPXW-DT (ION Media Networks); WRC-DT (NBC); WHUT-DT (Howard University/PBS); WNVC-DT (MHz Networks); WNUV-DT (CW Network); and WFDC-DT (Univision).