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Today’s Show:

Mobile HDTV

Motorola Mobility, one time subsidiary of Google, now a part of Lenovo, just released a new app in the Google Play Store called, yep, you guessed it, Mobile HDTV.  The app enables select phones and portable devices, with the proper hardware, to watch live, over-the-air HDTV right on your Android device. The concept is pretty simple, and you’d think very compelling, but it turns out most people can’t use it. The question is, why not?

According to the description of the app, “Digital HDTV brings the broadcast TV experience to mobile devices with HD quality, making the experience more personal and more universally available.” The app is both a tuner and a DVR, so it allows you to…

  • “Watch TV while away from home: Digital HDTV brings the HD broadcast TV experience to the mobile device, with the additional support of the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) and Ginga, for user interactivity.”
  • “Record the TV program that you like: You may record the program you are watching, so that you can see it again later, or share something you liked with others.”
  • “Choose when to watch your favorite program: You may love a TV program but you may not necessarily be available to watch it when it plays. This feature gives you the ability to schedule it to be recorded, so that you can watch it later, when you like it.”

However, “This application has been designed to work on the Motorola models that support Mobile HDTV.” That’s the catch. So how many Motorola devices support Mobile HDTV? Turns out we weren’t able to find any for the US market that include the necessary hardware. Google and Amazon searches for devices with built-in DTV tuners came up empty. There are a handful of external DTV tuner/antennas at Amazon, but they’re based on the now defunct Dyle TV platform. So what gives?

TV on your Phone

According to the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), “The process of integrating mobile TV transmission with an existing ATSC broadcast TV plant is not difficult. These are the basic devices required for local origination and network services:

  • A video (AVC) and audio (HE AAC v2) encoder for each added program stream
  • An IP path into the facility (for remote component ingest)
  • An IP encapsulator to encapsulate all program streams and non-real-time files into the appropriate transport protocol
  • A service multiplexer to multiplex the conventional ATSC stream with mobile TV data
  • A mobile TV enabled exciter to replace the existing exciter in the ATSC transmitter
  • The Mobile TV architecture provides full compatibility with all industry-standard ATSC equipment. Additionally, the system is compatible with all current microwave and fiber STL systems.

And they list a ton of benefits for the broadcaster, “When a mobile TV system is implemented, broadcasters can expect the following operational and financial benefits:

  • Leveraged investment in ATSC transmission
  • Delivery of robust digital TV signals to mobile TV receiving devices
  • Extension of local branding to mobile users
  • The ability to redirect local news, weather, sports and traffic information to “consumers on the go”
  • The addition of up to eight program (streams) of mobile content per station
  • New revenue opportunities based on subscription, advertising and sell-through transactions”

We (The HT Guys) started talking seriously about Mobile HDTV back in 2010 when a group called Mobile Content Venture (MCV), a joint venture of 12 major broadcasters, announced a commitment to upgrade TV stations in 20 markets in order to deliver live video to portable devices. Their goal was to deliver mobile video service in markets representing more than 40% of the US population by late 2011. That group eventually released a platform of hardware and applications called Dyle TV. But as of May 22, 2015, Dyle mobile TV is no longer in service, and Dyle-enabled devices and their apps will no longer be supported.

Some may remember that Qualcomm tried and failed as well. They developed a technology called MediaFLO for transmitting audio, video and data to portable devices for mobile television and branded it in the US as FLO TV. But in October 2010, they announced they were suspending all new sales of the service to consumers and in December 2010, AT&T acquired Qualcomm’s broadcast spectrum licenses in the 700 MHz band. FLO TV was officially shut down as a service in March of 2011.

What gives?

Many of us remember how many portable TVs were sold in the 1980’s. How many Watchman TVs Sony was flooding the market with. And back then you had to carry a separate device with you just to watch TV. Often they were only black and white screens, and sure they were “portable,” but not nearly as portable as today’s cell phones. How is it that free, over-the-air television, with no cost to consumers – no data charges, no minutes used – isn’t a feature on every cell phone and tablet in America?

This is very different than the Aereo situation. With Mobile HDTV the same broadcaster is airing the same content in the same market. They’re just broadcasting it to an entirely new set of screens. We don’t know for sure, but it’s entirely possible that the number of cell phones and tablets exceeds the number of TV screens in a lot of urban markets. Why wouldn’t broadcasters want their content on those screens? Why wouldn’t users want the ability to tune into live TV when they’re stuck shopping at the mall all day on a Saturday? Or every tablet made, for any kid in a carset or at a restaurant. There’s no cost to watch it. You don’t even need a data connection.

There has to be some technical challenges with the technology that we weren’t able to uncover, and we’re hoping some of our listeners can shed some light on it. Because, as of right now, an app like Mobile HDTV from Motorola Mobility seems like a pretty big no-brainer. We just don’t know why nobody has been able to get it to catch on.

Download Episode #700

Posted by The HT Guys, August 14, 2015 2:22 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.