tech Q&A

Anne Schelle Has A Clear Vision For Pearl

The new managing director of the consortium of TV station groups that’s pushing mobile DTV has 20 years of media experience, with a focus on wireless. Her new focus is to make sure Pearl members keep pace with the proliferating ways that consumers are watching TV at home and on their mobile devices. She talks about how broadcasters can still make mobile a vital part of their business, why smart TVs are promising and Pearl's shaper focus on developing a next-generation broadcast system through ATSC.

Earlier this month, Pearl, the consortium of eight major TV broadcast groups, tapped Anne Schelle to be its managing director. The move was a natural one for Schelle and for Pearl.

As executive director of the now-defunct Open Mobile Video Coalition, Schelle worked closely with Pearl in trying to get the broadcast-centric mobile DTV group off the ground. She has also served as an adviser to Pearl.

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Schelle has some 20 years of experience in media, much of it in the wireless industry. At Pearl, her job is to make sure its members keep pace with the proliferating ways that consumers are watching TV at home and on their mobile devices.

Pearl members have a lot at stake. Its members — Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps Co., Gannett, Hearst Television, Media General, Meredith Local Media Group, Post-Newsweek Stations and Raycom Media — reach 63% of the U.S. population with 173 stations in 98 markets, and book more than $4 billion in annual ad revenue. 

In this interview with TVNewsCheck Tech Editor Phil Kurz, Schelle discusses her new role, how broadcasters can still make mobile a vital part of their business, why smart TVs are promising and Pearl's shaper focus on developing a next-generation broadcast system through ATSC.

An edited transcript:

Brand Connections

You formerly were executive director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition and most recently an adviser to the NAB on mobile television. Where does mobile DTV stand today and where it is going?

I continue to be a believer that mobile is an important platform for broadcasters. As you know, Pearl has an investment in Dyle [Pearl's branded mobile DTV service]. They have been working to build out that network. Pearl is also looking to the new standards to support mobile as well.

I have to make it clear that today broadcasters distribute a lot of content and information to mobile viewers. This would be the linear feed, or the direct feed, and that continues to be a strong interest of theirs and investment of theirs.

I know there are more than 100 broadcasters simulcasting their linear channel via the mobile DTV standard. But from the receiver side, it’s been a lot tougher to make mobile DTV successful, right?

It continues to be a challenge, more so with getting onto smartphones, and I think that conversations are continuing with carriers. There are obvious challenges with the devices out there. I do think the broadcast platform brings a lot of value to the cellular platform. Even LTE Broadcast wouldn’t be able to provide a full TV service. There is value to broadcasting, especially as video usage increases.

So, you believe TV broadcasters can help wireless carriers offload video distribution to lessen the strain on their networks?
Yes. I think it is not unlike the Wi-Fi model that existed six or seven years ago where carriers weren’t allowing the offloading to Wi-Fi, and now they embrace that. Video on a bit basis is very expensive for them, especially when it is a lot of free video. So, mobile DTV is a great way to offload distributing that content.

It hasn’t quite happened yet, but I do think you will see interest in that from the carriers.

Is this really more a matter of settling business issues with carriers than technology issues?

Yes. I think down the road there are viable business models that would lend themselves to a partnership type of arrangement.

I think an interesting corollary is the FM radio chip in cell phones. In that instance, the silicon was already in the phones and the wireless carriers still weren’t allowing its use. A business arrangement developed with Sprint, and I think you will potentially see the other carriers adopt the phones that are being sold because consumers want it. So, there is a consumer pull-through for it.

Are you happy with the acceptance of mobile DTV by broadcasters? Do you have any thoughts about ABC and CBS and their decision not to get involved with it?

I can’t speak for other broadcasters. I can speak for Pearl. Pearl is dedicated to mobile. They invested in Dyle; they built out their markets; they support mobile as a service; and they are certainly looking to the platform for the future.

Pearl stations in West Palm Beach, Fla., later this month will begin a trial of mobile-EAS in a hurricane scenario. What can you tell us about the trial?

This is a technical trial to do multi-station M-EAS distribution and also to work out the implementation aspects of M-EAS.

It isn’t a consumer trial. It is a technical trial to do multi-station distribution. There is an implementation team at ATSC looking at M-EAS implementation. I also understand that this is a capability that will be transported over to ATSC 3.0.

They will be looking at the distribution of emergency alerts and coordination of it across stations.


Comments (1) -

Roger Thornhill Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Well, it's a new job for Ms. Schelle so naturally she is going to be circumspect and give an interview reeking of caution. But Dyle and mobile DTV under 1.0 is pretty much dead. It is the ATSC 3.0 standard that is going to determine whether OTA television really has a future and if it will be a TV everywhere future. As such broadcast groups like Pearl along with the NAB need to push the FCC to postpone the 600 MHz spectrum auction until 3.0 is rolled out and broadcasters have a clear roadmap. Obama's friends have been wetting themselves trying to get the auction done before their boss leaves office. But this is far too important to rush through (besides, the wireless providers don't need the spectrum right now).
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