KOMO, KSTP Eye ‘Soft’ Launch Of Mobile DTV

Fisher Broadcasting’s KOMO Seattle and Hubbard Broadcasting’s KSTP Minneapolis are set to debut test runs this spring of the Media 500 Alliance’s service to dongle-equipped iPhone and iPads.

Hoping to show the way for its members, the Mobile500 Alliance is planning “soft” commercial launches of its mobile DTV service for owners of Apple iPhone and iPads in Seattle and Minneapolis this spring.

Fisher Broadcasting’s KOMO will broadcast the service — a simulcast of its over-the-air signal — in Seattle; Hubbard Broadcasting’s KSTP, in Minneapolis. Both stations are ABC affiliates.

To receive the service, consumers will need to purchase a dongle-receiver and download the associated app. The Mobile500 has arranged for the dongles to be sold through Apple and Amazon for about $99 starting in June.

It will be “a package that can be easily adoptable by member station groups to deploy mobile DTV in their markets,” said John Lawson, executive director of Mobile500, one of two coalitions of broadcasters pursuing the mobile DTV business.

Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications and chair of the Mobile500, said earlier trials have shown that consumers are eager to receive their local stations on their phones. “Consumers love it; we already know that. It will make people more news hounds than they already are.”

According to Lawson, the stations have permission from syndicators and ABC to simulcast their programming, but only temporarily. They are still working on permanent rights, he said.

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At the same time, he said, the Mobile500 is interested in acquiring additional programming to complement the stations’ local programming. “We’re continuing to search for content that is available and that would help drive the market in terms of viewership,” he said.

“We think that the early adopters might be interested in something other than primetime network content.”

Although Lawson is calling the initiatives “soft launches,” Ron Hubbard, president of Hubbard Television Group, owner of KSPT, sees them more as tests. “We’re hoping to learn how consumers use it, and what’s appealing to them.”

The dongles for the service are being manufactured by German firm Elgato, and will come equipped with audience measuring capabilities developed by Expway. Both Elgato and Expway have extensive experience with mobile TV in Europe and Asia.

Ulla Saari, VP of sales and communication for Expway, said using a dongle is an attractive short-term solution. “That’s leveraging an already existing market rather than building everything from scratch.”

The Mobile500 hopes to have paying advertisers supporting the services in Seattle and Minneapolis, said Lawson, and, with Expway’s help, the stations will be able to measure audience-viewing habits with never-before-seen precision.

The stations are not encrypting their mobile DTV signals. But to open the apps on their iPads or iPhones, consumers will have to provide their age, gender and ZIP code. The Expway software will then be able to track what they are watching.

“The notion is that we would be able take a look at what the advertising agency determines through the [audience] measurement system, and work with the clients to see what they got out of this,” said Brown.

The Mobile500 group is one of two broadcast station alliances working to resolve technical, copyright and business issues to make broadcast TV on-the-go a reality.

The other is the Mobile Content Venture, comprising NBC, Fox, Ion Media and several large station groups including Hearst and Scripps. It’s moving forward on a separate track to launch a mobile DTV service branded as Dyle, but it has not yet said when that might happen.

In January, just before CES, MetroPCS had announced plans to market the Dyle service with a Samsung smartphone, but that device will not be available until later this year, a MetroPCS spokesman said.

At CES MCV also demoed two Belkin dongles that could plug in to smartphones to receive the mobile TV signal. Those aren’t available yet either.

MCV officials have said that member stations will be able to include some NBC and Fox programming in their mobile DTV service, but they haven’t yet identified what programming.

An MCV spokesperson declined to comment on whether any new information on the service would be unveiled at NAB next week.


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