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Broadcasters team up to create mobile TV service

NBC, Fox, and other broadcast giants are jointly developing a new service to deliver TV shows to mobile devices over existing broadcast airwaves.

A dozen broadcasters have joined forces to create a new service for delivering mobile TV.

LG Voyager handset showing local TV.
LG Voyager handset showing local TV. Nicole Lee/CNET

With more and more people watching video on smartphones and other portable gadgets, the newly created venture will let member companies cook up digital TV content including live and on-demand video, news from both print and electronic outlets, and an array of sports and entertainment shows. Potentially, it could also provide U.S. mobile users with information on emergencies and natural disasters.

Content will be sent over existing broadcast airwaves instead of over the Internet. The partnership is made up of three national networks--Fox, NBC/Telemundo, and Ion Television--and nine of the largest owners of local TV stations: Belo, Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, Media General, Meredith, Post Newsweek Stations, and Raycom Media. The nine station owners will be represented in the venture by a separate company called Pearl Mobile DTV.

The companies said there will be enough bandwidth to deliver mobile video to almost 150 million U.S. consumers. All broadcasters involved in the venture will provide the spectrum and kick in content, marketing, and cash investments to drive its growth.

The venture is also targeting the service to assist the Federal Communication Commission's National Broadband Initiative. The plan is not only to provide mobile content but to do it in a way that helps unclog the nation's wireless broadband network. On the technical end, the mobile service will use a system called ATSC-M/H, a broadcast standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) for mobile devices.

"Mobile digital television places each of our companies at the center of a consumer transformation, putting us on cell phones, Netbooks, DVD players and even in-vehicle entertainment systems," David Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting, said in a statement. "And it's the consumers who are the big winners. From news and entertainment to emergency information, virtually all U.S. consumers will soon be able to bring their most valuable content with them wherever they go."