Local Broadcasters Want Mobile Standard: Free TV on Phones and Handhelds (With Ads, That Is)

The good news: A coalition of 800 local TV stations are lobbying to get a mobile TV standard approved by the ATSC. Rather than pay Verizon or AT&T a boatload of money to get MediaFLO content, you will just buy a product with a receiver chip and tune in whatever's on. The bad news: Broadcasters want this because TiVo, cable and that damned internet have done away with their ad revenue, and mobile TV seems like the last good place to stick inline ads that you will have to watch.

Yep, the Open Mobile Video Coalition wants the Advanced Television Systems Committee to explore three technologies we've maybe only talked in passing before:
• LG/Harris' MPH (Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld)
• Samsung/Rohde & Schwarz's A-VSB
• Thomson/Micronas' variant of the European standard DVB-Handheld

So yes, if the plan is implemented, it means we will someday catch up to where Korea and Europe already are. Since big CE players are already involved in these technologies elsewhere, it wouldn't be costly for them to add the functionality to US product lines—a premium of around $10 per device.

For broadcasters already dealing with the digital switchover, adding $100K in hardware to their terrestrial broadcasting stations wouldn't be such a big deal, especially since it would help them tap into potentially $2 billion in ad revenue. (Unlike cable, local broadcasters are dealing with big revenue falls every quarter, including a 17% dip at the end of 2007.)

The question is, would you watch the stuff even if it were free? Qualcomm's MediaFLO is already an option with Verizon and AT&T, but I don't know many (any?) people who sign up for it. Also, who relies on local TV anymore? Gone are the days when Ron Burgundy and the KVWN Channel Four News Team reigned supreme. [AP]