Dyle will be free, as long as you pay for cable

Erik Moreno speaking at NABThere are all kinds of fun stories coming out of the 2013 edition of the NAB Show, but what I heard this morning was not fun. During a session called Mapping the Future of Broadcast Television, one of the co-general managers of the company behind Dyle, the mobile TV system, revealed what it plans to do once the service is on its feet. Dyle viewers will be “authenticated,” and if they subscribe to a service that pays retransmission fees to local broadcasters, their device will be turned on. Left unsaid was what would happen to those poor souls who dare to watch over-the-air TV at home for free with an antenna.

Erik Moreno, co-general manager of Mobile Content Venture, was one of the panelists in the session, and he said a lot of things that made sense. There was a lot of talk among panelist about the tension between cell phone companies providing on-demand digital content and TV broadcasters, both grabbing for the same spectrum. Moreno correctly pointed out that this shouldn’t be an either-or question. “If I were God,” he said, “I would make sure to have both.” Broadcasting is the best delivery method for live and popular programming, and on-demand is great for individualized and long-tail requests.

Moreno made note of a simultaneous announcement at the show that Fox was launching a streaming app similar to that available from ABC. He said that mobile users will appreciate being able to watch the stream over their cell phones, then will be disappointed by the data usage bills they’ll get. At that point, mobile TV will have a great opportunity to catch that audience and switch them to Dyle, which would presumably need to be included in their cell phone hardware.

As I’ve pointed out before, Dyle’s press releases had been careful to note that subscriptions weren’t necessary … yet. Moreno made it clear that this was only because there are so few Dyle-compatible stations that they needed to grow the market before beginning to monetize it.

If I needed someone to create and implement a successful business plan, Moreno would be high on my list. But listening to such a casual, naked rejection of free TV over the public airwaves left me shaken and sad.

Instead of ending on such an unhappy note, let’s look to the future. In my next post, I’ll try to give you an idea of what the NAB Show exhibit hall is like. Spoiler: It’s fun, interesting, and even inspiring.