As I anxiously awaited to return home to Colorado after six days in Vegas for my first NAB Show, I needed to do one last thing: Check to see how many mobile DTV dongles sold at the NAB Store.
On Sunday, my editor Harry Jessell and I checked out the store in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and saw that it was packed with devices. As I was taking a picture of the display, the chief engineer from WPXI Pittsburgh told me that Elgato’s dongle worked pretty well.
Picture quality and strength of signal is great, he told me. But not too many people in Pittsburgh are tuning in. That’s because the Cox Television-owned NBC affiliate is the only station in the market to put out a mobile signal.
That’s the main problem with mobile DTV. A consumer isn’t going to drop $100 on a device for one channel. Erik Moreno, co-manager of Dyle, one of two consortiums trying to make mobile DTV a consumer success, said the same thing in a panel session hosted by Jessell on Tuesday at NAB.
“The entirely logical conclusion is we ask the industry to go ahead and do this,” said Moreno. “Whenever I pitch it to the industry, I say, we could build a network nationwide with $300 million. That’s less than it takes to light the bulbs of a Verizon LTE network. You pay for the spectrum, build out a cell tower, it’s north of $25 billion.
“For us as an industry, let’s aggregate $300 million and go and do it.”
Maybe that’s the plan. I reported this week that Dyle and its competitor, the Mobile500 Alliance, will likely merge in 2013. “Both groups have known from the beginning that we need to unify efforts to be successful. It’s always been a question of when,” said John Lawson, executive director of Mobile500.
Could one, unified group rally all 750 or so stations in the U.S. to broadcast a mobile DTV signal? It’s estimated that it would cost about $130,000 to $150,000 per station. Those stations need to decide if that expense — while not astronomical — makes business sense.
It would certainly eliminate any confusion among consumers, who right now, need to decide which group to pick. It’s seems like more of a marketing issue.
So, back to the original point of this blog post: Was mobile DTV a hit at this year’s NAB Show? If you go by the amount of Elgato and Escort dongles remaining in the store on Thursday afternoon, then yes.
I don’t have an exact number, but the cashier told me they were very popular this week. Have a look for yourself: