As U.S. television broadcasters consider the future of their spectrum assets with pending auctions and the potential transfer to mobile telephony and Internet services, the embers of innovation in the local television industry are far from dead.
Television station group owner Granite Broadcasting Corp. has teamed with Motive, PLC, a U.K. firm, to launch a start-up aiming to bring local television to any device connected to either the Internet or ATSC digital television spectrum. Motive Television PLC (MTVE.L on the London stock exchange) and its subsidiaries provide software to broadcasters around the world. Together with Granite, they are forming the Broadcast Cloud Joint Venture (BCJV) to exploit ATSC television spectrum and content assets to provide live television, customized linear television channels, video-on-demand and catch-up television to a range of devices including media tablets and mobile phones.
Granite will be running a test of the “television everywhere” Motive technology at KOFY-TV, its biggest market station serving the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, California television market. The test was announced back in May 2011.
BCJV will use proprietary technology that Motive patented and deployed commercially in Europe since 2009. Motive is providing BCJV with an exclusive license as well as sales, management and engineering expertise to provide the technology other third parties including broadcasters and content owners. Clearly, Granite is encouraged enough by its nearly year-long relationship with Motive to launch the joint venture in the U.S.
It will be interesting to see how well a commercially mature technology can be transplanted from Europe to the U.S. market. Granite has long shown an interest in backing innovative uses of television spectrum, though none has fare particularly well in the past. This is the kind of innovation that backers of the ATSC digital television standard hoped to see in the U.S. One advantage business models using ATSC spectrum have over 3G and 4G spectrum business models is that with its inherent one-to-many architecture, it effortlessly scales to serve mass flash crowds such as major news or sports events. One-to-one cellular architectures are challenged to scale to mass audiences leading to one of the drivers of the move to capping monthly data plans.