John Lawson, who served as the alliance’s executive director since its inception in 2010, stepped down following the NAB show in April when his contract expired. Lawson was replaced by Rob Hubbard, president of Hubbard Broadcasting, who says a merger with Dyle, the other mobile DTV consortium, isn’t on the horizon, despite public discussions from both sides.
“From the Mobile500 perspective, we know we represent the small and medium-sized market broadcasters that aren’t reflected on the other side,” says Hubbard. “The technology we have is really the same so that there’s nothing except business relationship issues that prevent a consumer from seeing both services with the same device.”
Prior to be acquired by Sinclair, Fisher Broadcasting, under the leadership of Colleen Brown, handled the day-to-day heavy lifting for the Mobile500 Alliance. Hubbard says the Alliance is currently in a “neutral mode” as the group makes an administrative transition.
That could be why news on the Mobile500 Alliance side has been quiet.
Heading into this year’s NAB Show, the company released data from its soft launch in Seattle and Minneapolis (DMAs 12 and 15, respectively). In those markets (KING, KIRO and KOMO broadcast a mobile signal in Seattle; KSTP and WFTC broadcast a mobile signal in Minneapolis), more than 500 Elgato dongles that are needed to receive the signal on an iPhone were handed out to consumers. The company reported that 62% of consumers in Seattle and Minneapolis watched Mobile DTV one to five hours per week.
Since then, news has been relatively quiet. Capitol Broadcasting Co. lit up WRAL (CBS) and WRAZ (Fox) in Raleigh this summer, but consumers still can’t buy dongles to receive the Mobile500 signal on their devices. Hubbard says Capitol handed out hundreds of dongles to consumers, just as they did in Seattle and Minneapolis.
Hubbard says consumers that do have the dongle are watching mobile broadcasts, but it’s clear that the dongle is significantly less attractive than having an antenna already built-in to a device.
“The idea of the dongle is problematic, but that’s no surprise, everyone has known that,” he says. “When its built-in it would get more use. The idea of having a dongle is something that people are less thrilled about.”
Since the end of August, the Mobile500 Alliance’s website has been shut down, as reported by Deborah McAdams at TVTechnology. The domain is pending renewal or deletion.
Hubbard says the broadcasting community and consumers likely won’t hear any updates about the Mobile500 Alliance until January at the International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.