News Corp.’s Plan To ‘Reinvent’ Content For The Mobile Web, Repurpose Broadcast Spectrum
Mark Walsh, Dec 23, 2009
News Corp. outlined its plans to use a portion of its broadcast spectrum to deliver TV, newspapers and other content to mobile devices in a filing Tuesday with the Federal Communications Commission.
Promising to "reinvent and recreate the content experience from the ground up," News Corp. described a mobile media platform built around providing local news and information but also spanning everything from prime-time TV shows and movies to celebrity interviews to books, newspapers and magazines.
In addition to on-demand offerings, the mobile system would also provide live coverage of sporting events and breaking news as well as the ability to access the Web, check My Space or Facebook pages or go to Hulu free of technical glitches or slowdowns.
"Consumers would have access to the best content, delivered in ways that are personally tailored to consumers on the go, all through the touch of an icon on a screen, with short-cuts to favorite shows, alerts when new episodes are available, and recommendations to try something new from favored genres, actors, producers or writers," stated the filing in response to an FCC notice of inquiry issued Dec. 2 seeking comment on whether parts of the broadcast spectrum should be reallocated for wireless broadband.
Broadcasters have strongly opposed the FCC possibly taking back some of the national airwaves from TV stations to help meet growing demand for wireless broadband services. The idea is under consideration as part of the agency’s wider efforts to develop a national broadband plan.
TV executives say they want to use their broadcast spectrum to offer more digital channels as well as programming for mobile devices. To that end, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch earlier this month told the Federal Trade Commission at its meeting on the future of the news media that the company has been working for two years on the project to deliver mobile TV over its airwaves.
In its FCC filing Tuesday, News Corp. reiterated that it plans to use its remaining broadcast spectrum to roll out an ambitious mobile content platform over the next two years. The media conglomerate argued that its "broadcast + broadband" strategy would provide the most efficient means of delivering programming to mobile devices.
"Rather than delivering ‘American Idol’ 26 million times to the 26 million viewers who watch this show AT THE SAME TIME, on average, in a given week, a one-to-many broadcast network could transmit ‘American Idol’ once to mobile devices, using a tiny fraction of the bandwidth at a tiny fraction of the cost than would be required for millions of one-to-one deliveries," stated the News Corp. report.
The company stressed that its mobile content plans are still under development, noting that media-centric smartphones emerged only two and a half years ago. But with the adoption of a mobile TV broadcast standard (ATSC-MH) in October, News Corp. expects development to ramp up. Currently, only 15.8 million people — or about 7% of U.S. cell subscribers — watch TV on mobile phones, according to Nielsen.
Not surprisingly, News Corp. does not envision government playing a major role in expanding the mobile frontier. "In short, broadband+broadcast does not require wholesale government intervention, massive upheaval, or a redistribution of resources," it said.
Whether the FCC would include any suggestion to use broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband in its national broadband plan to be presented to Congress in February is unclear. But in exploring how broadcasters might aid broadband efforts, the agency said in its Dec. 2 inquiry that it’s "reviewing various spectrum bands to understand if all or a portion of the spectrum within these bands could be repurposed for wireless broadband services."