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Participants Rate Mobile DTV Experiment 7 out of 10

WASHINGTON: The 150 or so folks tapped to test mobile, over-the-air DTV in the nation’s capital give it a 7 out of 10. That’s the word from the Open Mobile DTV Coalition, the group of broadcasters conducting the trial. The rating refers to the “excitement” factor of mobile DTV.

“On a scale of one to 10--with one being ‘not at all excited’ and 10 being ‘extremely excited’--initial survey participants rate Mobile DTV as 7.1,” the OMVC said today.

The experiment--dubbed a “Consumer Showcase,” commenced last month in Washington. It involves select Sprint Mobile subscribers supplied with Samsung Moment cell phones and reception-enabled Dell PC notebooks. Nine TV stations in the market contributed the spectrum to carry 23 channels of programming for the trial. The OMVC said it’s received 2,800 comments from users.

“While this is just the initial feedback from Mobile DTV viewers, it is instructive to see how many viewers reacted positively to the potential of Mobile DTV,” said Aaron J. Heffron, vice president of Harris Interactive, which is involved in the collaboration. “We’ve had viewers praising the picture quality, and the flexibility Mobile DTV provides them.”

The comments indicated that around two-thirds of users are watching mobile DTV while mobile. Around 44 percent also are watching at work or school--implying overlap--and around one-third are tuning in at home. Around half tune in one or twice a day; 30 percent said they tuned in three times or more.

One participant said it enabled them to watch TV before getting home at 8 p.m.: “Having it available as I am waiting in line and hanging out at the park is great. It’s especially great to know that I will have the most current info.” Another noted the convenience of having mobile PBS Kids to keep little people occupied, and a third admitted to an escalating news jones.

OMVC said that it’s deploying prototypes of the first reception-enabled Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks this week. An LG DVD player and receivers from Valups are on deck for future evaluation. Receivers are on display this week at the CEA Line Shows in New York, where ION Media is transmitting in ATSC M/H, the mobile DTV standard.

Stations in Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.; Atlanta, Orlando, Fla.; Chicago, Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Los Angeles, San Jose and Fresno, Calif.; are also transmitting ATSC M/H signals, though reception devices have reportedly been hard for some of them to come by.

Media General is pressing ahead with its own mobile DTV roll-out in two markets during the third quarter of this year. Media General will launch the service in Tampa, Fla.; and Columbus, Ohio, first, followed by the rest of its 10 markets over the next 12 to 24 months.

Media General is a member of the OMVC as well as Pearl, the coalition formed at the NAB Show in April to organize and promote mobile DTV. Pearl is one of four equity investors along with ION, Fox and NBC in Mobile Content Venture, formed to hash out content and spectrum contracts. The various organizations are still hammering out their working relationships.
-- Deborah D. McAdams