Mobile TV won’t thrive if broadcasters don’t push it rather than wait for other segments of the industry, such as electronics manufacturers, to take the lead, according to NAB Show panelist Salil Dalvi of NBCU Digital Distribution. But Hubbard Television Group’s Robert Hubbard, who heads the Mobile 500 Alliance, said it’s not that simple, with the investment necessary a challenge for some broadcasters to afford.
Mobile TV Needs Strong Broadcaster Backing
With growing consumer demand for video on smartphones and tablets, broadcasters need to take charge in making mobile TV a robust business, even if other players like manufacturers are hedging, industry leaders say.
“Mobile TV is really in the hands of the broadcast industry,” Salil Dalvi, an NBCUniversal Digital Distribution SVP, said during a panel discussion on mobile TV at the NAB Show on Monday. “TV stations have a lot of power to both light up for mobile as well as create awareness and bring people to the table.”
Dalvi said that was proven during the 2013 holiday season when Dyle, a mobile TV product backed by broadcast groups including NBCU, tested its viability in 12 markets across the country.
That test run showed that consumers like the idea of mobile TV, with 15% of Dyle consumers watching at least two hours of TV a week on their smartphones or tablets, he said.
TV ads were instrumental in building demand for Dyle, he said. “We went from zero awareness to significant awareness,” he said.
But mobile TV won’t thrive if broadcasters don’t push it rather than wait for other segments of the industry, such as electronics manufacturers, to take the lead, he said. “I think it’s very easy to say we’ll jump if someone provides a net for us,” Dalvi said, adding that “lighting up” for mobile is “a relatively minor cost.”
“At some point, you have to do something about it,” he said.
But Hubbard Television Group’s Robert Hubbard, who heads the Mobile 500 Alliance, said it’s not that simple.
He said “lighting up” for mobile TV, which could cost several hundred thousand dollars, is a “meaningful investment” for mid and small-market broadcasters, particularly if the tools to use it are not readily available, he said. “For a small market television operator, that could be a year’s capital investment.”
Meantime, indicators point to growing consumer interest in mobile TV, said Jamie Spencer, a Magid Associates VP. He said research shows that “smartphones and tablets are becoming full-blown TVs.”
About 44% of Smartphone owners and 61% of table owners currently watch video on their devices — and local broadcasters have opportunity to capitalize on that interest, Spencer said. Nearly 40% of consumers who don’t watch local TV news said they would be more likely to do so if it were available on mobile, he said.
John Taylor, an LG Electronics VP, said there are also public safety public benefits to mobile TV. An emergency alert system specific to mobile TV capitalizes on broadcasters’ ability to reach millions of consumers with rich media content — video, maps, escape routes — even when power outages and the like prevent them from watching TV.