Local Content Key To Mobile DTV Success

Today the broadcast and newspaper company Media General announced its first launch of  mobile digital television, at the station WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio–a town that sees itself as so sophisticated, its main shopping center is called not a mall but a “Fashion Place.”

Mobile DTV’s move into the (somewhat well-off) heartland comes after a report indicating that denizens consume more local information when they can get it on their phones, while broadcasters have recently formed a new organization dedicated to the technology. Mobile DTV clearly entices both purveyors and average consumers who can afford a smart phone, which in turn could have consequences on how other audio-visual content becomes available on mobiles.

Like LBS, or daily newspapers wondering how to  compete with large news sites, it’s a a great opportunity to provide local, unique, and relevant content to consumers.

“At Media General, our greatest strength is that we have the right local content for our marketplaces. Mobile DTV is an important new way to extend our reach and deliver this content to our viewers, when, where and how they want it,” Marshall N. Morton, president and CEO of Media General, said in a release.

That jibes with findings from Rentrak Corporation. A few weeks ago the measurement and research firm released a report that said in Washington state, one of the first mobile DTV markets, “Viewers enthusiastically endorse the concept of Mobile Digital Television largely because of ready availability of live, local news broadcasts that are not easily found on competing devices and platforms. Fans of the new technology also say they are watching more television every day than before.”

Rentrak said consumers tuned in to 2,600 different TV programs specifically because they were available on mobiles, and watched while riding public transport, eating lunch, or waiting at doctors’ offices. And, compelling while hurricanes and tornados are still in season, mobile television “proved to be an invaluable source of information during approaching storms and other public safety emergencies where information was not immediately forthcoming from authorities.”

“Think locally” is also the mantra of the newly formed Mobile500 Alliance, at present a group of 30 American broadcast companies that operate 346 stations in 167 markets. Mobile500 plans to build on the work of the Open Mobile Video Coalition. Mobile500 Chair Colleen B. Brown said in a release: “The expansion of mobile DTV provides local broadcasters with another way to deliver the information local viewers need and rely upon, especially as consumers increasingly turn to their portable devices for personalized content. We look forward to working with our broadcast partners, content providers, device manufacturers and others to develop an efficient and economical Mobile DTV network.”

Sure, technological issues need to be addressed, and broadcasters need to guarantee ROI measurements to advertisers. And while local is a great gateway drug for consumers to become mobile TV addicts, these consumers are soon going to demand premium entertainment video as well, especially considering the CTV merger in Canada. Maybe the Mobile500 Alliance should start recruiting content owners.