Magazine article Variety

Nets Jump into Mobile Stream

Magazine article Variety

Nets Jump into Mobile Stream

Article excerpt

The history of mobile television has been rocky at best. While the allure of streaming live network programming to viewers over their handheld devices is undeniable, delivering that content in ways that don't abrogate rights agreements and can somehow be monetized has proven mercurial. Loudly trumpeted efforts have fallen short, victims of poor design decisions, overpriced services and/or confusion about the target audience.

While the idea of watching television on a 3.5" screen might not make sense to anyone in their mid-30s or older, mobile TV is a logical extension of how Generation Me has grown up with entertainment. It's also a way for broadcasters to reclaim some of the younger viewers who increasingly spend free time multitasking with their handheld devices and may be staying away from TV sets entirely.

The backers of mobile TV are, if nothing else, persistent. They're also diverse, ranging from media mogul Barry Diller and Cox Television to the Scripps Television Station Group and PBS. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the topic of mobile TV might not have been front and center, but it was certainly being buzzed about among attendees. Now, recent advances in the field have some wondering if it is finally ready to come of age - and just as important, if it will clear the legal obstacles it's bound to face.

The initiative got a big push recently with the commercial launch of Mobile TV, a Web and mobile service that lets viewers watch live programming from ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as 25 cable channels including CNN, ESPN, MTV, USA and AMC.

Currently live in 50 markets, Mobile TV offers some 130 stations to viewers, depending on their location. The free service is available on many Android smartphones and tablets, but notably does not work on iOS devices such as the iPhone. (The programs are livestreamed via a Website, which uses a Flash media player - something Apple products do not support The site asks the viewer's zip code, so as to provide local network channels.)

Competing service DyIe mobile TV has a slightly smaller offering (90 stations in 35 markets), but is run by a partnership that includes Fox, NBC, Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps Co., Gannett Broadcasting and Hearst Television. The free service is built into the Samsung Galaxy S Lightray. However, TV antenna attachments for iOS devices are expected to go on sale this fall, which will make the service available to iPhone and iPad users. Pricing for those attachments has not yet been announced, but it not expected to exceed $150.

Dyle's service runs on a separate broadcast network spectrum, so it doesn't take a bite out of cellular data allowances. Many of the other new services are following this pattern as well to bypass data caps.

"New opportunities to extend video watching beyond the living room . . . point out the unique benefits for broadcast spectrum, and resolve challenges in our wireless 'data-cap' world," read a statement from Salii Dalvi and Erik Moreno, co-general managers of Mobile Content Venture.

The idea might be consumer-friendly, but not every mobile TV company is being embraced so warmly. Aereo, which broadcasts exclusively in New York City and is backed by Diller, has been tied up in legal fights since it was first announced, with the networks arguing that the newbie had failed to acquire licenses to deliver their broadcasts over the air. They're particularly upset with Aereo's option to save or record programs for later viewing. …

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