TV-Station Groups Plot Mobile DTV Joint Venture


A dozen major TV-station groups are teaming up to provide
content and spectrum for a national mobile digital-TV service.

Belo, Cox Broadcasting, Fox Television Stations, Gannett
Broadcasting, E.W. Scripps Co., Hearst Television, Ion Television, Media
General, Meredith, NBC Universal, Post-Newsweek Stations, and Raycom Media wil
get together to form a "standalone joint venture," according to an announcement
at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las

Spectrum for the service will come from the Fox, Ion and NBC/Telemundo
owned-and-operated stations, as well as the nine other groups.

The service will reach 150 million U.S.
residents, said the companies, and content will include "live and on-demand
video, local and national news from print and electronic sources, as well as
sports and entertainment programming," according to the groups.

TVNewsCheck reported in December that Gannett, Media
General, Hearst Television, Cox, Belo, Scripps, Ion Media, Raycom and
Post-Newsweek had formed a joint venture called the "Pearl Project," which was
seeking to use its scale to raise capital and cut deals with carriers, receiver
manufacturers, retailers, programmers and advertisers.

The announcement comes against the backdrop of the FCC's
plan to encourage broadcasters to give up spectrum for wireless broadband, but
broadcasters are looking to pool and leverage their own spectrum to be players
in the new media space.

"The venture is designed to complement the Federal
Communication Commission's (FCC) National Broadband Initiative by giving
consumers mobile access to video content while reducing congestion of the
nation's wireless broadband infrastructure," the companies said Tuesday. "In
addition, the service's mobile content network will have the capacity to
deliver local and national time-sensitive emergency information to citizens
across the U.S."

"Local broadcasters are the backbone of the U.S.
media industry," said David J. Barrett, President
and CEO of Hearst Television Inc., in announcing
the venture's official launch. "This sharing of content, broadcast
spectrum, marketing resources and capital is unprecedented, and underscores U.S.
broadcasters' commitment to bringing vital local news, weather, and emergency
information to increasingly mobile U.S. consumers. This is a critically
important initiative that holds great promise for our audiences and the
television industry. This is truly the next generation of local television

"This initiative offers a path for the next
generation of video consumption, and will help the FCC in its goal of ensuring
efficient and reliable broadband service for U.S. consumers," added John Wallace, president of NBC Local Media, in an announcement
issued from the NAB show.

In a speech to the NAB
convention earlier Tuesday, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski gave a shout out to
mobile DTV and said he thought broadcasters would be able to provide that
service and turn over some spectrum for wireless broadband if they chose.

Genachowski said it was a "myth" that the spectrum
reclamation plan would kill mobile DTV.

I'm pleased that the DTV transition has enabled the
development of standards and the launch of market trials for mobile DTV," he
said in his keynote speech. "Our job is not to predict innovation or business
models, but to enable them.  Under the
incentive auction plan, broadcasters will be able to provide mobile DTV, both
licensees that choose to retain all 6 MHz, and those that choose to

NAB president Gordon
Smith said Monday at the conference that some 150 stations will be on the air
with mobile DTV by the end of the year. A trial of mobile DTV service is
scheduled to begin May 2 in D.C. Smith said that test will help broadcasters'
lobying efforts because it will "enable us to go to Congressional offices and
show them the future. " Smith also told Multichannel
 last week he was skeptical of
the claims that broadcasters could do mobile DTV and give up spectrum.