20.4% of US Broadcasters are ‘Transmitting’ Mobile-TV? Seriously?

Recently SCRI published a teaser article claiming that across the board “…over three in ten TV (30.6%) and almost four in ten cable stations (37.5%) are already transmitting mobile-TV broadcasts.”

The article cites an international study they performed which makes pretty bold claims and then links to their for-a-fee marketing report.  Which, as we all know, can be skewed any number of directions based on the questions/wording posed.  Their question of “When will your facility be transmitting mobile-tv broadcasts” already shows the poor choice of words and lack of specificity to make the answer meaningful.

SCRI’s definition of mobile TV is more in line with what the average “Jonny-bag-‘o-doughnuts” would think of, but not the same as ‘broadcasting’.  Where a broadcaster (a broadcast engineer at least) would naturally think of M/H for transmitting ‘Mobile TV’, SCRI is referring to IP delivery to smartphones via 3G.  The headline they used would cause a murmur of excitement from the M/H proponents (I used to be one) until they read a little further.

Assuming the 20.4% number cited for the USA *is* real, the more important information to know would be; Is it a simulcast of all their programming?  Is it ‘scrubbed’ of national spots with ‘black holes between segments?  Is it entire programs or is it specific to the mobile audience with short-form blocks of content?  Is it specific for the Web/portable devices or is it a lazy “We’re-On-The-Web-Too” effort?  What sort of revenue are they generating from the endeavor?  What sort of impact has that had on bringing viewers to their traditional broadcasts?  What sort of brand identity or viewer loyalty (if any) was generated?  I suppose I’d have to pay $1,750 to find out if these questions were even asked….

Regarding true, over-the-air mobile DTV broadcasting if one were to look at the site RabbitEars there is what looks to be an impressive list of broadcasters committed to ATSC-M/H, but looking closer only some are major network affiliates while most are independents and/or PBS stations, not the one’s that get the consistently large number of eyeballs needed to sustain it.

Seems OK. But only if you have an older iPhone or iPad.

Not long ago I was encouraging broadcasters (and my local management) to get on the M/H bandwagon, get our content out there, promote it, generate awareness, push the brand, yadda, yadda.  But we can all see where broadcasting M/H has gone; absolutely nowhere.  Hell, back in 2008 the landscape for broadcasters that wanted to offer M/H was fairly bleak.

Despite a spate of mild efforts (not by some – a few have but some serious engineering into their effort – but by the broadcast industry as a whole) in 2010 by the old OMVC to raise awareness and 2011 with the Open Mobile Video Coalition forming the Mobile DTV Forum and pushing the tech out there via a couple cautious vendors it lacked the coordinated punch needed by everyone in broadcast television.  Instead, wireless providers generated the awareness and buzz needed, purchased spectrum and built out their infrastructure to make Mobile TV synonymous with video watched on your smartphone by *insert wireless telco provider here*.

Clearly I’m a skeptic of these claims of massive numbers of broadcasters “transmitting mobile TV”, but all I have to do to be skeptical of these headlines and ‘surveys’ is to look at my smartphone here in a number 6 DMA and see the dearth of local broadcasters on it.  If it was relevant, appeared in my search results and is made available to me I would be watching it.  And what makes this even more sad for broadcasters is that because this is a smartphone connected to the Internet it doesn’t matter what Nielsen DMA I’m in.  I get results from around the world and anyone in our industry pushing for regional viewing restrictions is only hastening the noose’s constriction around the local broadcaster’s neck.

Meanwhile, I received an email from Google informing me about a 2013 model superbike shootout performed by Motorcyclist Magazine and published on YouTube (Yes. A print publication is showing up in my face with content I want to watch).  Cool.  I’m going to check that out right now….