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63 TV Stations Pledge Mobile DTV Support

International CES became a rallying point for the pending launch of Mobile DTV broadcasting.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), an alliance of U.S. broadcasters and CE manufacturers dedicated to accelerating the development of mobile digital television, staged a press conference here to reveal that 63 TV stations, and growing, in 22 markets — representing 35 of U.S. households — have committed to mobile DTV broadcasting plans in phase one of the launch. The launch is planned to take place once the standard is finalized around the third quarter of this year.

Of the 63 stations, there will be 14 NBC affiliated, nine ABC affiliates, nine CES affiliates, five FOX affiliates, nine ION Television affiliates, four CW affiliates and four MyNetworkTV affiliates, in addition to nine PSB stations that are in discussions with the OMVC to join the 2009 launch.

Once operating, the broadcasts will deliver standard-definition video signals receivable in moving vehicles and on hand-held devices, such as cellphones and MP3 players.

The coalition is offering demonstrations of a candidate standard of the system broadcast by a Sinclair Broadcasting station and a PBS station in Las Vegas during CES.

It is expected the candidate standard will be finalized by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) by the third quarter of 2009.

In addition to broadcasting their usual terrestrial DTV fare, the trial mobile DTV technology is enabling the stations to add eight additional mobile DTV channels carrying content from a variety of networks and content providers.

Eventually, broadcasters will be enabled to carry virtually any incremental programming they want, in addition to mobile simulcasts of their core TV services.

These extra options could range from ancillary news, sports and weather information to subscription TV services, and even bidirectional TV services.

Brandon Burgess, OMVC president and chairman and CEO of ION Media Networks, said, “Mobile DTV creates real benefits for all broadcasters, from large to small to in all sized markets. Broadcasters are signing up quickly.”

Burgess said the new broadcasts will “grow organically” along with the launch of mobile DTV devices.

As for measuring audience size to help monetize the new system through advertising revenue, the coalition said that A.C. Nielsen has established a separate company that is now developing methods to track mobile DTV viewership.

As for broadcaster plans to provide subscription revenue from the technology, one broadcaster said the easiest implementation, at least initially, will be to simulcast primary broadcasts in mobile, adding that attempt to start subscription service could prove problematic for now.

As for President Barack Obama’s reported proposal to delay the analog DTV cutoff, broadcasters at the mobile DTV event said they did expect such an action to have any effect on the rollout plans for mobile DTV.