I’ve gone on the record with my pessimism about Mobile DTV, and recent events have done nothing to change my view of the situation. TV Technology recently published an article about a discussion of Mobile TV at the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) in Washington that confirms my suspicions. Jay Adrick is Vice President for Broadcast Technology at Harris Broadcast, and he was involved in the development of the standard. According to the article, he warned the others at the meeting that “if we drag this out another two or three years, it will definitely be too late.” He went on to point out that details such as a viable business model need to be resolved.
I still believe that Mobile DTV is a solution in search of a problem. Consumers no longer want to access linear programming on their mobile devices. They are already streaming content on demand on their smartphones and tablets and computers, using both WiFi and wireless broadband connections. None of their devices have the tuners required to access Mobile DTV, and I don’t think they see any compelling reason to get a device that does.
The best explanation is that television broadcasters see Mobile DTV as a way to hold onto precious radio spectrum that they are not using. They may also see it as a way to try to keep linear broadcast television relevant, though that would appear to be an uphill battle. With as little as 10% of the U.S. population dependent on over-the-air broadcasts as their sole television source, it hardly seems that adding a little mobile content to the mix is going to make any difference. We’re way past the days when a transistor radio could transform the listening habits of consumers. Today, our phones and tablets and computers deliver far more content with far more focus than radio possibly can, and television content is really no different.
At this point, Mobile DTV looks all dressed up with no place to go.