Dongle Maker Seeks More MDTV Progress

Elgato Systems, which makes adapters for receiving mobile DTV on tablets and smartphones, says unless more broadcasters air mobile DTV signals, it may rethink its involvement with the service.

Elgato Systems, the manufacturer of the dongles for iPhones and iPads that allow consumers to receive mobile DTV broadcasts, wants to see significant progress on mobile DTV this year or it is going to reevaluate its commitment to the struggling service.

Adam Steinberg, vice president of marketing for Elgato, says his company is behind mobile DTV, but doesn’t want to wait around another year to see if it takes off.

He says sales of its EyeTV Mobile adapter were steady initially, but the product, which sells for $100, has experienced a high return rate. “The people returning these are maybe getting one channel or none at all. It’s not worth it to them,” says Steinberg. “While we are very encouraged by the initial sales, we need to see progress by year’s end, especially toward the Christmas season when these gadgets tend to sell. If not, we, as a company, need to go back to the drawing board.”

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Elgato’s EyeTV Mobile pairs up with a free app that’s available through the iTunes App Store. Once installed and the dongle is connected to the device, the app scans for stations in the area, allowing the user to choose a channel to watch. It hit the market Dec. 15, 2012.

Steinberg says Elgato’s investment in mobile DTV wasn’t huge because it was able to leverage the technology it has been marketing outside the United States.

“In Europe, you can take our product out in a city like Munich and easily get 35 channels — all sorts of channels, including sports, movie channels, and it’s all free, over-the-air. We would love to have the U.S. at the same point as Europe with this technology.”

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To date, 133 TV stations in 35 markets are broadcasting mobile DTV in the U.S., according to the Open Mobile Video Coalition, which promotes mobile DTV in the U.S.

The mobile DTV stations are divided between two service providers — Mobile Content Venture backed by Fox, NBC and several major stations groups and the Mobile500 Alliance based by Fisher, Hubbard and smaller groups.

“It’s a chicken and the egg scenario with mobile TV technology. We did this as an investment into this technology…. We’re the egg, we hatched, and now it’s up to the chicken to really put those stations on the air,” says Steinberg, adding that Elgato is confident more channels will be added this year.

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For now, Elgato remains committed to mobile DTV. They hope to sell more adapters in the U.S. when an Android version goes on sale later this year.

At next month’s NAB Show, the company also plans to run a demo on how its app will take advantage of the recently passed Mobile Emergency Alert standard (M-EAS). Steinberg says the update will be available this year.


Comments (4)

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David Siegler says:

March 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Perhaps if the receiver was actually a full service ATSC receiver as opposed to a MDTV only device, their return rate might drop.

Jason Crundwell says:

March 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm

This is just what we need. Daily, I see idiots driving to/from work texting or emailing or whatever. Let’s give ’em a TV to watch! Great idea!

Halie Johnson says:

March 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm

What incentives are there for broadcasters to sink money into offering MDTV? It’s another chicken & egg problem. Unless there’s a viable financial incentive to offer the service and you’ve got a large enough user base for such devices, then I can’t see a lot of stations, especially small market stations, ever offering this service. I agree with MrFantasy, make it a full ATSC receiver and you’ve got a winner.

Christine Smith says:

March 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I would like to third the notion that MDTV is basically useless. I have a full USB ATSC receiver and it’s great. I was really hoping something like that would be available for iPhone or iPad.


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