CES: Can Broadcasters Dyle Up a Mobile TV Ecosystem?

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On my flight to Las Vegas, I happened to be sitting next to an employee of the Mobile Content Venture — the joint venture formed by NBC and Fox to develop a nationwide mobile TV service, using the broadcast industry’s Mobile DTV standard.

My seatmate gave me a demo of the venture’s Dyle mobile TV (well, more like a presentation since we were 30,000 feet in the air). The Dyle app includes a basic grid guide and a way to auto-scan for available channels, which like regular broadcasts will be available free over-the-air. Simple enough, if you can actually receive the signals.

The promise:  When it launches sometime later this year, Dyle will be available from more than 72 stations in 32 markets — as simulcasts of those local stations — reaching approximately 50% of the U.S. population, according to MCV.

The challenges? Two big ones.

The first is getting Dyle dialed into devices to pull down ATSC-Mobile DTV signals; the second is measuring viewing so TV stations can get advertising credit for those eyeballs.

On the first point, last week MCV announced a deal with MetroPCS Communications, which plans to offer an Android-based Samsung phone with Mobile DTV support (see MCV Inks First Wireless Carrier Deal). MCV also is working with Belkin to create a dongle for tablets and smartphones, and has received a “commitment” from Dell to create compatible devices.

The price is right: MCV isn’t charging manufacturers any kind of licensing fee to Dyle-enable their devices.

But in any case, you’ll need a new phone or some kind of new attachment (which, by the way, will require an antenna of some sort). The Belkin deal is interesting, with the prospect of being able to watch, say, Sunday Night Football on your iPad, but having Mobile DTV directly integrated into devices is clearly the preference. And MetroPCS is a start but with 9.1 million subscribers they’re not in the same league at AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

On the audience-tracking side, MCV is embedding conditional access provided by Nagra with keys managed by Neustar into the service. That will let it report usage back to Nielsen. (The Dyle app will ask you to enter your age, gender and ZIP code before you can tune in.) What that means, though, is that Dyle devices need a back-channel (i.e., an Internet connection) — MCV isn’t even targeting devices that aren’t capable of sending viewing info back upstream.

Side note: The conditional-access piece also could let MCV deliver pay-TV content at some point, including allowing access to mobile TV as part of a TV Everywhere arrangement.

There’s one other challenge: A separate mobile TV consortium, the Mobile 500 Alliance — with 46 members representing 420 TV stations — isn’t currently participating in Dyle. MCV’s partners include NBC, Fox, ION and the nine broadcast groups that make up Pearl Mobile DTV (Belo, Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, Media General, Meredith, Post-­Newsweek Stations and Raycom Media).

In all, Dyle represents a ton of effort, all for letting TV stations scrape together a few extra ad bucks by letting viewers tune in to live TV from a mobile device. Qualcomm’s FLO TV couldn’t make a go of the subscription-based model — will free mobile TV be different? To quote Dyle’s tagline: Stay tuned.

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