Rehr: Mobile TVDollars Await

TV stations could earn an additional $2 billion annually in ad dollars within four years by sending their programming directly to millions of consumers toting mobile handheld devices, National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr said here last Monday.

Rehr, kicking off the trade group’s annual convention, said a great opportunity awaits TV stations once handheld devices can receive signals directly from DTV towers.

“That’s live TV on upwards of 345 million devices,” he said. “That’s your favorite morning show live on your handheld device on the bus to work. That’s the baseball game keeping your boys quiet in the back seat of the car. That’s not missing a college-basketball game during March Madness, because you can catch it on your cellphone.”

The projection came from a study prepared for NAB by BIA Financial Network (see Platforms, page 34).

Today, consumers can use mobile phones to stream or download network and local TV-station programming over the Internet. Other devices receive cable and broadcast programming on a subscription basis from non-TV station sources.

For more than a year, TV stations have been working to agree on a mobile-video technical standard to expedite the rollout.

“We have to get a single industry standard adopted and the technology deployed. NAB is moving full-steam ahead,” Rehr said.

Rehr’s upbeat forecast came at the end of a string of recent setbacks for his organization.

Over NAB’s objections, the Federal Communications Commission provided satellite-TV companies DirecTV and Dish Network with flexibility on the carriage of local TV signals in high-definition. FCC chairman Kevin Martin last week backed substantial HD carriage relief for small cable companies, again over NAB’s strong objections.

In his speech, Rehr railed against the Justice Department’s approval of XM and Sirius, which would leave the country with just one national satellite radio provider. The FCC is still reviewing the deal.

“The Justice Department’s notion that the two companies do not compete is simply absurd. If combined, these two companies will control more spectrum than the entire FM dial — think about that,” Rehr said.

TV stations are also trying to kill the use of portable, low-power wireless devices that want to inhabit vacant TV channels in a local market. But NAB claims such unlicensed operations will scramble digital TV pictures in a manner that can’t be trace because users will be anonymous. Some devices have failed in two rounds of FCC lab testing.

“We know if these devices can’t work in pristine lab conditions, they won’t work in the real world — which means interference on televisions across the country that can’t be traced or stopped,” he said.