A classic image from old movies and TV shows was a group of people huddled around a storefront of an appliance store to watch breaking news. Next week most people will probably see the presidential race unfold on TV or on the Web. But this could be the first major election that will be viewed on mobile phones, thanks to news updates, IM from friends and other connectivity that is offered in the palm of your hands.
And while people might not be huddled around mobile phones this time around, the third screen is about to get ready for prime time; or more accurately a little more ready. TV has been slowly taking off on mobile phones thanks to the mobile Web, but over-the-air TV is gearing up for handsets and it is likely that 2009 will see a lot happening.
Part of this will happen because of the switchover from analog TV to digital, and that has the opened the door for new over-the-air TV transmissions to devices such as media players, car navigation systems and most importantly mobile handsets. The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), which manages the U.S. digital TV specifications, will be voting on the final mobile standard in late November with a planned launch in 2009.
Hurdles remain in place and the ATSC mobile system, which should be able to ride on existing over-the-air broadcasts could be costly for the nation’s 1,600 digital TV broadcasters, especially given that many are small local stations. However, unlike some efforts to bring TV to mobile, this won’t require carriers to set up new networks.
Additionally, the specs from the ATSC could include options to utilize optional Internet connections available on the phone, making for a more user-interactive experience. So one thing is for certain, TV on the third screen has the potential to be more than just a mobile TV screen on a handset.
We’ll be watching this trend very carefully, and hopefully watching a lot of TV on the mobile handsets.