CBS Streaming To Mobile Using Syncbak

For the past few months, CBS has been using Syncbak to stream the signals of its duopolies in New York and Los Angeles to smartphones and other devices without requiring a dongle or antenna. Syncbak uses the GPS embedded in smartphone and tablets and another proprietary system to make sure that only users within a station's market can receive the station's programming.

Looking for a way to make its owned stations and affiliates available to the rapidly proliferating number of smartphone and tablet users, CBS has been testing the Syncbak platform that streams programming of stations while restricting reception to mobile devices within the stations’ markets, says Robert Seidel, the network’s vice president of engineering and advanced technology.

For the past few months, CBS has been using Syncbak to stream the signals of its duopolies in New York (WCBS and WLNY) and Los Angeles (KCBS and KCAL) and monitoring its performance to ensure its quality and reliability, Seidel says.

This week, Nielsen is running tests on the platform to ensure it can track who’s watching and when — the key to monetizing the eventual service, he says.

For the early testing, only about 100 individuals have downloaded the Syncbak app needed to receive the signals, Seidel says.

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But if all goes well, the service could be rolled out to the public in some markets as early as this spring, he says.

“Syncbak gives us mobile TV without having to plug in an antenna or adapter,” says Seidel, a reference to the mobile DTV initiative being led by Fox and NBC. “It can run on 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi — all of which are very reliable to get live TV when on the go.”


CBS is one of many broadcasters experimenting with Syncbak. Fifty stations in 30 markets are now streaming with the Syncbak technology and another 125 in an additional 63 markets will soon join them, according to the company.

Syncbak is using the GPS capability embedded in smartphone and tablets and another proprietary system to make sure that only users within a station’s market can receive the station’s programming.

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The so-called geo-fencing is key to clearing rights to network and syndicated programming that traditionally have been distributed on a market-by-market basis.

That CBS is working with Syncbak is not only an endorsement of the technology, but is also a strong sign of the network’s willingness to allow its O&O and affiliates to distribute CBS programming on the Internet and cellular networks.

The other early adopters of the Syncbak platform have been streaming a mix of local news for which they have the rights and some syndicated programming.

If CBS grants its affiliates the rights to stream its programming, it would be the first of the networks to do so.

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Some content, particularly the NFL, will be a challenge to clear for the streaming service. But if it can’t, Seidel says, the broadcasters will simple substitute other programming.

CBS has not been active in the industry push to launch mobile DTV, a technology that uses a small portion of each stations spectrum to broadcast programming to specially equipped mobile devices.

Seidel sees Syncbak as superior to mobile DTV for reaching the mobile masses. Unlike mobile DTV, users won’t need a dongle or a smartphone with an antenna, he says. They will need only what they have — a smartphone or tablet and the ability to download an app.

Syncbak CEO Jack Perry declined to comment for this story.

Andrew Dodson is the Technology Editor for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDodson. Email news tips to [email protected]

Comments (4)

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Matthew Castonguay says:

February 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I guess Seidel doesn’t believe in the concept of broadcasting (in the engineering sense of the word). Presumably then, CBS will be selling their spectrum in the upcoming FCC auction. Mobile DTV (broadcast/one-to-many) and IP (point-to-point streaming) technologies don’t have to be an either/or proposition – they have the potential to be highly complimentary, with great bandwidth efficiency and consumer cost savings. Maybe CBS doesn’t get that, or disagrees…certainly they’ve been AWOL on ATSC M/H from day one…but why they feel compelled to take slaps at the efforts of other broadcasters working on mobile DTV is a mystery.

Marcelo Gama says:

February 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

That’s because what CBS is proposing is more likely to succeed in the actual consumer marketplace. To assume a user will either purchase a special M/H receiver, dongle or other peripheral to receive local TV channels, is simply delusional. Downloading an app? That’s a no-brainer for most smartphone users. If local broadcast groups and networks want to reach small screen users, they’d better ‘have an app for that’.

    Maria Black says:

    February 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    But if that dongle let me watch TV from a different market, I’d buy it. That would be a perfect way to circumvent the built-in GPS stuff. But that is probably why CBS is doing it: to avoid what is happening/happened to Aereo

Matthew Castonguay says:

February 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I understand the counter-argument which we can debate…broadcast mobile is a longer-term play. My point is that CBS could discuss what they are doing with Syncbak (which many MCV and Mobile 500 members are also doing in parallel by the way), without taking shots at mobile DTV.

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