US broadcast industry group finally standardizes mobile digital television

Last night, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) unanimously agreed on the final mobile broadcast TV standard, the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV Vestigial Side Band (VSB). This standard lets broadcasters take a portion of their existing DTV band and rebroadcast it as a shortwave sideband for mobile consumption.

But even in places where mobile broadcast television is popular, such as South Korea, it still isn't that popular. In the United States, where the average household watches more than 8 hours of television per day, mobile television remains as unpopular as ever.

So why has ATSC been working for the last three years to standardize mobile broadcast television?

IP-based TV, for one thing.

According to the Nielsen Company this week, online video usage for the US has grown about 18% overall in one year. The number of unique viewers grew by 12.3%, total number of streams grew by 25%, streams per viewer grew by 11.1%, and time that each viewer watches online video went up 25%.

In September, popular video site YouTube streamed 6.68 billion videos to 106 million unique viewers, and Hulu streamed 437 million videos to 13.5 million viewers.

Even though online monetization has proven to be problematic for content owners, this gradual shift is changing fortunes for broadcasters. But as Radio Business Report pointed out today, only television station licensees have the infrastructure to deliver mobile DTV to the public, so they can therefore control the pipeline and the monetization scheme.

But controlling stake aside, the technology still requires viewers to pick up entirely new devices to receive the signal, and right now, there isn't really any reason to get an ATSC-compatible device like the LG portable DTV/DVD player which it showed off today. The standard is compatible with 8-VSB DTV which was deployed in Washington D.C. to test mobile DTV, so there is at least one market ready to go, but regional participation is varied.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition -- which represents 27 corporations that own and operate more than 800 broadcast stations -- today said that some 70 member stations have announced plans to roll out their mobile DTV broadcasts this year.

"Consumers will soon reap the benefits from this innovative use of broadcast digital television," said ATSC president Mark Richer today.

Soon...just not yet.

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