When I recently wrote about the welcome proliferation of over-the-air TV digital subchannels, or “dot-twos,” I overlooked an important part of that story: It proves that one of my predictions was right. In this case, it was my prediction and contention that dot-twos are a much better use of broadcasters’ finite bandwidth than mobile TV, especially Dyle TV.
With the current version of ATSC, North America’s digital TV standard, you can’t watch if your antenna is in motion. That’s a real limitation, and engineering groups went right to work on a version that could handle movement. Long story short, many of the broadcasters formed the Mobile 500 Alliance, while others backed an offshoot, Dyle, which required user authentication.
From a techie perspective, mobile TV sounded like a good idea, but as I pointed out, there’s no real market for it. Mobile TV’s target audience would be passengers within a metropolitan area who want live TV, but who aren’t in a subway tunnel. Did broadcasters really believe there were enough gadget-packing bus riders to make that work? Worse, each mobile TV channel took bandwidth away from another possible dot-two for stationary viewers.
Yet another hurdle was getting enough stations to broadcast mobile TV channels so viewers might want to buy mobile TV devices. As I wrote about Dyle in particular, “Any new service is going to have a chicken-egg problem, but Dyle has few chickens or eggs.” The best TV markets had only five or six mobile channels available; Denver has exactly one. It’s hard to convince a bus commuter to spend $50 or more for a phone dongle if that’s all it’s going to provide.
How bad is it now? When I scrolled to the bottom of Dyle’s FAQ page, I saw that the Belkin Mobile TV receiver, which had been on the market for less than two years, stopped working on January 1, 2015 because Dyle no longer supports its iOS app. Ditto for mobile TV reception on the RCA Mobile TV Tablet, which Dyle had announced and promoted at the International CES 2013. Sure hope you didn’t buy one of those.
On the other hand, I’ve still got the mobile TV dongle that Escort was kind enough to send me in June 2013. As I said in my review, it really worked. And it still works, bringing in that lone Denver channel whenever I test it. (I wonder how much of the iPhone dongle problem came from mistiming Apple’s transition from 30-pin connectors, which the Escort relies on, to that little Lightning thing. But I digress.)
I know for sure that the Denver station is still broadcasting, and Dyle’s site still shows lots of other active markets. On the other hand, Dyle’s news page shows no press releases since June 2014, and there’s that unceremonious New Year’s dumping of its Belkin and RCA receivers. The Mobile 500 Alliance was still alive as of April 2014, but you’d never know by its web site.
Broadcasters are currently negotiating and working out details for what will become ATSC 3.0, which should support 4K screens and mobile devices. I predict that by 2025, a bus rider will be more likely to be watching a dot-two on his cell phone than anything based on Mobile 500 Alliance technology. By then, Dyle will be known as the broadcast version of Microsoft Bob.