Memo To Local TV Stations: Mobile TV Won't Save You

It’s become customary for the chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters to kick off its annual convention in Las Vegas with a note of techno-optimism. Or at least techno-something. In the past, it was all about Web sites, digital multicast channels, or stopping the Sirius-XM merger.

This year, NAB president David Rehr has a new saviour : cell phones that carry local TV broadcasts. How big is this market? $2 billion a year within four years, he said, a figure probably pulled from a BIA Financial report that predicts $1.1 billion of that would flow directly to stations “if an industry standard is adopted and technology deployed quickly.”

Rehr’s vision, via Multichannel News:

That’s live TV on upwards of 345 million devices. That’s your favourite 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 cell phone.

But here’s the problem: Even optimistic projections put the entire mobile advertising market at $6.5 billion in 2012, and carriers will take the lion’s share of that. Mobile TV isn’t taking off, even with powerful players like Nokia, Verizon and Qualcomm pushing it. More important, if mobile video does take off, it’s unlikely to be in the form of local broadcasts: Just because you can get your local newscast on your phone doesn’t mean you will.

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