Tag Archives: ATSC

Networks/Broadcasters Look at Mobile Television

At the Future of Television in Hollywood a few days ago, a high-level panel took a look at the opportunities and challenges facing the television industry. Moderated by Bill Sanders, president, Pervasive Media, panelists included Tim Connolly, vp, mobile distribution, Disney/ABC/ESPN Media Networks; Kraig Baker, partner, David Wright Tremaine LLP; Jim Eadie, vp,

Bill Sanders moderates mobile TV panel

Bill Sanders moderates mobile TV panel

digital distribution, MTV Networks; John Lawson, evp, ION Media Networks;Steve Bradbury, vp, business affairs, GoTV Networks; and Jonathan Barzilay, svp, programming and advertising, MediaFLO USA.

Sanders started off by polling the audience on how many watched video on their mobile phone–streaming or downloading–or a weekly basis. As is typical for these casual polls, the answer was…almost no one. But Sanders wasn’t discouraged. “We need to move beyond it being a ‘gee whiz’ thing to where it’s a business,” he said. He asked every panelist to describe some development they’ve seen in the last year that has changed the game…or will change the game in the next 6 to 12 months.

Steve Bradbury, GoTV: I think when you go beyond the iPhone and start talking about the Android that’s come out of the box strong and will have a proliferation, that’s interesting. LG will do a store, Blackberry and Palm will have a store. The whole idea of carriers no longer being that central focus [is a game changer]. Handset mfrs trying to take back control of content is a coming trend.

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Broadcasters Race Towards Mobile TV

MobilizedTV spoke with Anne Schelle, Executive Director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition about the work the coalition is doing to enable its 800 broadcast TV members to go mobile.

What’s new since NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) in April?

AS: Since NAB, we filed our trial results with the FCC. We tested three systems: LG/Harris’ MPH system, Samsung/Roeder/Schwarz’s AVS-B; and Thomson’s Micronis’ system. We announced that the baseline system we recommended was MPH but that we felt that there were aspects of AVS-B we felt would be beneficial to the standard. Then LG and Samsung announced a partnership on the two standards the day before we filed. How the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Commitee) process works is, once the documentation is written for a standard, there’s a candidate phase where manufacturers build chips to the standard to make sure the standard works. On Sept. 25, ATSC considered the documentation to move it forward to a candidate draft standard.

Once approved to a candidate standard, it’s a four-to-six week validating process. You will see an announcement that a candidate standard has been adopted. At that point, it goes through a testing phase. We proposed that we’d assist with the funding and implementation of the testing. What happens during the testing phase is you set up model systems and enable streams to go out. Device manufacturers can pull them down and test them. We’ll also do interoperability testing to make sure all the layers work together.

When will we see real devices?

AS: The proposed date for the standard to be approved is end of May. Modifications and improvements may be made to documentation. LG and Samsung will have real devices at CES and NAB. Harris has already announced they’ll be able to have product by end of October. This is moving very rapidly. The other thing that’s interesting and different about this standard is that it’s allowing for versioning. So this is Version 1.0 with base features and capabilities. Then you’ll see a future versions come out that enable additional features. That means broadcasters will be able to react to consumers’ feedback and the ever-changing landscape of technology. The standard is very flexible so it’ll enable multiple business models.

Can you describe the beta tests?

AS: We’ll be doing consumer trials, which are a proxy for a consumer service where we can test out various device types and forms of programming. What’s great about the ATSC is that any video-enabled device can implement the technology: handsets, MP3 players, PC dongles. If you have a video-enabled phone, you do need to buy a new handset. But for a PC, you don’t. You could take your laptop with you, your dongle and plug it in and watch TV wherever you are.

How will this impact the mobile TV/video eco-system?

AS: I do see this as a big game changer. I was on an interesting panel called “Ask a Video Expert” with people from ESPN, NBC Universal, Ad Infuse and QuickPlay. The three points that were made by the panel were their frustration with having to go through the carriers today where they’re serving up content but the carrier systems are legacy so they have no clue who is being sold what. They get no reports back. Carriers aren’t really pushing entertainment. It’s all about ARPU for them. Their data plans were dismal five years ago, and they’ve turned down interoperability for texting five times. On the content side, similarly, the carrier decks have poor user interfaces. Sometimes you have to go six pages deep for discoverability. It’s very poor search because they block Google .

The user experience, in a nutshell, is poor and it’s not unified. Nothing is unified in fact. The content distributors have to deal differently with each carrier and sometimes they deal with different silos. It’s very complicated and from an end user’s perspective, it’s not the same experience to purchase a music video on AT&T as it is on Verizon. We just did a big literature review in US and Europe and found that users want what they get at home: ease of access, ease of use, commonality, the number of channels and experience they have at home, and none of that is being offered on the carrier’s deck.

Do broadcasters have any advantage in this environment?

We’ve got content, local and national. We have the ability to put together a fairly large national network that could offer up a unified experience, and in terms of awareness, who better to advertise for mobile TV but the broadcasters themselves? Their ability to self-advertise is tremendous. They can have TV talk shows about it, news shows about it, they can run spot ads. They can promote the heck out of it.

The alternative to the carrier solution is needed. At the same time, we see the carriers as partners. The user is going to be side-loading, purchasing clips and other types of content as they are today on the computer.It’s a multi-pronged experience. What’s missing-what drives all video-is live local television. TV built IPTV and the cable system. And live local content in terms of sports, news and scandals are some of the most watched programming out there. Those are all the benefits.

Many skeptics believe mobile TV won’t take off for a long time. What’s your response?

Free over-the-air broadcast will drive premium video service uptake. It’s early days if you think about it. The market is very early so there is a lot of opportunity and mobile TV really has a strong growth opportunity. The fact that it can be on almost any device that’s video enabled is really intriguing.

Take a look at the timeline of the standard. In 2009 you’ll see broadcasters building up. By Christmas 2010, manufacturers will come out with a lot of devices. My belief is that it’ll really take off in 2010 to 2011.

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Thomson’s mobile play in the U.S.

Grass Valley Group is a familiar name for all of you whose days in the TV broadcast arena stretch back to the analog days. But the Grass Valley Group of yore was known for its switchers, the GVG of the digital age is going mobile, with cutting edge technology for automating content preparation/repurposing for mobile. A second technology detects and preserves important objects for mobile applications (such as the soccer ball in a soccer game).

For those of you not familiar with GVG, I’m sure the name Thomson rings a bell. The French technology behemoth, which acquired Grass Valley Group some time ago, has more than a toe-hold in the mobile space. Thomson’s end-to-end DVB-H system, SmartVision, is a player in Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe. But up until now, Thomson’s involvement in the U.S. mobile market has been indirect. (If you consider a car to be a mobile device, then you can count its mobile video encoder, Vibe Mobile, which is used by Sirius for content broadcasting.) Thomson transmission systems are also used by the Qualcomm MediaFLO system, adds Thomson director of mobile content delivery systems, Alan J. Stein, who emphasized that the company is participating in the work of the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee, the people who brought us HD over the air) in creating a mobile video transmission standard that will co-exist with the terrestrial broadcast spectrum.

At Thomson’s Burbank offices, Stein demonstrated two technologies developed in its research labs for the mobile marketplace. The first, dynamic reframing technology, automatically “pans-and-scans” region-of-interest points, which are areas in the image where the action is taking place. “If you took an SD or HD video signal and downsized it for a mobile screen, it’s probably inappropriate for mobile consumption,” said Stein. “It might be too wide, you might need to zoom in, you might need to enhance items. People preparing content for internet or mobile tend to do a lot of this work by hand. We’ve created fully automated techniques to address these inefficiencies in workflow.”

“We use human visual modeling to look at motion — to identify areas of strong interest that your eye would be following,” said Stein. “Motion, brightness and other factors play a role, and there are also user-defined features.”

Cinematographers everywhere will scream bloody murder at the thought of their carefully framed images being panned-and-scanned (much as they did in the early days of home video), but that’s a battle for another day.

The second technology shown was object highlighting for mobile. “One deficiency of mobile video is that downsizing for mobile resolution you can lose important objects, like losing the ball in a sport,” said Stein. “Motion analysis and other algorithms can pre-process an image to ensure preservation of those small objects. An object aware encoder can help “save” those singular objects.” (You’ll have to look closely – this is the file is a bit too small…)

These technologies are now in the hands of Thomson’s productizers, and will likely end up as either/and products or features of products. “This is where the research guy doesn’t have a lot of control over how the business side decides to monetize it,” he admitted. The technologies might also be offered as a service. The tools will be aimed at the U.S. and global mobile market. “We’re fairly excited about seeing these automated techniques enter the marketplace and demonstrate that Thomson is one of the leaders in video processing, for the end-to-end video workflow for mobile,” said Stein, who had no prediction as to when we’ll see the product(s).

But the word “global” may be key here to when and where Thomson’s rolls out the new mobile-centric technology. I’m thinking Fall and I’m thinking Amsterdam. Stay tuned for IBC.

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Open Mobile Video Coalition: On Track for 2009

NAB 2008-Las Vegas, NV

At NAB 2008, the Open Mobile Video Coalition reported preliminary results of its work to a packed crowd at a Monday morning breakfast. The bottom line: the broadcasting industry is on track to launch mobile DTV services in time for the 2009 digital transition.

Founded at last year’s NAB, the Open Mobile Video Coalition is an association of TV broadcasters whose mission is to accelerate the development of mobile digital video in the U.S., through the development of a single open standard as well as research and education. To date, 800 TV stations representing 103 million households are members of OMVC.

The first step has been trials for pedestrian and high-speed mobile digital TV reception, initiated by OMVC at the request of standard-setting body ATSC. Held in the San Francisco Bay area and Las Vegas in March and April 2008, preliminary results of the trials show that both high-VHF and UHF mobile reception works at pedestrian and highway speeds; mobile reception can be achieved as far as 40 miles from the transmitter and that none of these systems interfere with normal digital broadcasting.

Most compelling to broadcasters is the finding (from an NAB study) that mobile DTV may generate up to $2 billion in additional advertising revenue potential by 2012. No wonder OMVC is eager to settle and standard and open for business. Cox Broadcasting vp of engineering Sterling Davis, chair of the Coalition’s technology committee, said a single open standard will be determined by the end of the year.

The prospect of 24/7 broadcast TV on the mobile platform is compelling, but opens a Pandora’s box of questions regarding digital rights management, competition with the carriers’ own on-deck offerings and the specter of actors, writers and others demanding a piece of the pie. But this group of broadcasters–in a marked change from their slow uptake of the Internet–are admittedly “laser-focused” on making mobile DTV a reality asap. “We’re not competitive with carriers but synergistic,” said one panelist,” And with $2 billion in potential revenues, there’s enough for everyone.”

Really? That might be news for carriers who are doing their best to produce and distribute content, including comnpetitive offerings such as news, traffic and weather. It will be interesting to see if the reality check will fall to carriers or broadcasters in the struggle to be kinds of content, but these broadcast behemoths summed up their case: they’ve got the content and the relationship with advertisers.

With a presence in numerous platforms, however, digital broadcasters will have their own reality check: “We don’t have a broadcast channel, it’s a data channel that we’ll have to parse out,” said another panelist. “At each station, it’ll be a bit management situation. HDTV does not preclude other applications, and as broadcasters we’ll have to make value judgements.”

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