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Roundbox introduces mobile DTV widgets

Mobile DTV widgets are coming, and U.S. broadcasters can make good use of them for non-real-time content. That’s the message from Roundbox CMO Vinod Valloppillil. “Mobile DTV’s IP transport can be used for pushing audio and video clips, for example,” he said. “That could be a local weather map or any file-based content that can be published over broadcast.”

With the ATSC Non-Real-Time Content Delivery standard slated to be published (as Candidate Standard status) in early Q1 2011, broadcasters are already lining up to do tests and trials of widget technology, reported Valloppillil, who said Roundbox will announce which stations are testing mobile widgets sometime around CES. “We expect implementation to follow quickly, given that (the standard) reuses much of the functionality of the announcement/electronic services guide function in the mobile DTV standard,” he said.

Roundbox, which provides end-to-end products for broadcast stations that add mobile DTV, is nicely positioned to provide mobile widgets to broadcasters. The company offers end-to-end products for a mobile DTV installation, from the Roundbox Mobile DTV Server to the Electronic Service Guide (ESG).

Any smart phone user can already access non-real-time content, but Valloppillil notes the difference with a mobile DTV widget. “The big difference is that these widgets are all published and owned by the broadcasters as opposed to Yahoo or whoever else,” he said. “If it’s a Yahoo TV widget, the user is directed away to Yahoo while he or she watches the news or weather. These widgets are branded and published by the station, which gains the reach, economics and user-interface footprint of the broadcast network.”

Where does the content come from? “Local stations collectively have made about $1 billion off of their Web properties,” Valloppillil said. “The TV station’s website is in the top 10 or 20 websites in their respective markets, so they have active content to create the widgets. The widget gives the station another way of distributing content they’re already producing.”

What about the fact that TV stations’ websites are, mostly, already optimized for the mobile Web? Isn’t it redundant to distribute them as a mobile widget? “We think this is complementary to things like the station’s website,” Valloppillil said. “The 3G or 4G signal can’t reliably get to some of the places that mobile DTV can, and the 3G signal costs about two cents a megabyte. So, when you multiply the numbers, it’s a dollar anytime anyone watches a YouTube clip. That’s the core, physical reason why the world needs broadcast technology in addition to 3G. Widgets are part of that, and they’re available for free, streamed to the consumer. It’s taking the TV experience and adding additional data to it.”