DC Consumer Showcase on Mobile DTV: Daytime Is Prime; Sports Disappoint

It is still early in the mobile-DTV game, but one thing is already clear in terms of consumers’ viewing habits: “Daytime is primetime.” This is according to findings from the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) Washington Consumer Showcase presented during a panel on mobile DTV Oct. 13 at the 2010 Content & Communications World conference in New York City. Not surprisingly, the case study indicated that most participants watched mobile DTV during the day while at work or on the go.

“Daytime usage has been very high,” said Anne P. Schelle, executive director, OMVC. “Daytime is primetime for [mobile DTV], so it extends the viewing day. That’s great news for broadcasters in terms of advertising.”

DC Gets First Look at Mobile DTV
The Washington Showcase involves nine area TV stations, with more than 23 mobile-DTV channels available to hundreds of area consumers, who are being asked to provide feedback through daily diaries, market research, and focus groups. The first segment of the study concluded at the end of August and featured 150 consumers using Samsung Moment mobile phones (using Google’s Android platform).

Local news and information programming was the runaway winner in terms of viewership by genre, with viewers tuning into 2,600 local news programs through mid September. In addition, 63% of the Samsung Moment participants reported watching mobile DTV every day, primarily while on the go outside of their homes.

The showcase also included a June-October study involving 200 Dell Inspiron Mini 10 entertainment prototype Netbooks, 40 LG Mobile digital TV/portable DVD player combos, and focus groups using Tivizen mobile-DTV receivers (a WiFi-enabled smartphone accessory that enables mobile DTV on products like the iPad, iPhone, laptops, etc.). The showcase ends Oct. 30, and the OMVC will produce a final report in late December.

Live Sports Fail To Draw
Surprisingly, sports programming ranked in the bottom third for viewership by genre. Sports have been a chief driver for consumption of video on mobile devices, making the Washington Showcase findings rather perplexing.

However, the low sports viewership can largely be attributed to a lack of sports programming. Although the Washington Showcase featured a variety of channels (Fox, NBC, PBS, The CW, and Univision), there was no sports-centric channel in the vein of ESPN or a regional sports network.

“There has been a lot of interest in sports programming, especially for a ‘Sports Ticket’ or something along those lines,” said Schelle. “In terms of the DC Showcase, part of the reason for the [low sports viewership] was, it was the summertime and there was not a lot of [sports programming available on the platform]. But we did not have an ESPN-like all-sports channel, which I think would come on big.”

The Showcase did, however, record a major spike during 2010 FIFA World Cup matches broadcast on Univision. Now that football season is well under way, Schelle expects a sizable increase in sports viewership for the current Dell Netbook study. In addition, several DC Showcase participants have also reported using the mobile-DTV device while tailgating at games.

“I wouldn’t read too much into the [low sports viewership],” said Salil Dalvi, SVP, mobile platform, NBC Universal Digital Distribution. “Our primary data and research from the Olympics, Notre Dame football, and other sports we’ve offered on mobile shows that live sports really does move the needle for mobile platforms. So no question that sports is important to any mobile discussion.”

The Effect of FLO TV’s Demise
The slow death of FLO TV may seem like a harbinger of doom for mobile DTV and the prospect of linear programming on mobile platforms. However, panelists argued that the demise of the subscription-based mobile-TV service (Qualcomm pulled the plug on the broadcast-based FLO TV this month) was due to its impractical business model, rather than consumers’ lukewarm reception of mobile DTV.

“Four things really killed the [FLO TV] service: high capital costs, high operating costs, a lack of compelling content, and I believe that the price charged for the content was way out of proportion to what was delivered,” said Jay Adrick, VP of broadcast technology for Harris Corp. “There was a general lack of local content, and local content is king in this model. Plus, the cost for deployment was very high compared to the investment that the broadcasters have to make on a station-by-station basis.”

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