Mobile TV is back. And this time, it’s free. In advance of CES 2012, mobile TV venture Dyle, MetroPCS, and RCA announced plans to roll out a phone and tablet that support free, over-the-air mobile TV from NBC, Fox, Telemundo, Univision, and ION Networks.
MetroPCS promised an Android-powered Samsung phone with Dyle’s free TV service “later this year.” The company didn’t give many more details other than to say the phone will support 4G LTE and have a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen. The phone will also have an extendable antenna, like Verizon Wireless’s old FLO TV phones did. MetroPCS didn’t give a price except to say that it would be a “premium” phone.
Dyle is a partnership between NBC, Fox, ION and nine local station owners, including Cox, Belo and Hearst.
One Phone, For Now
For now, the company is only announcing one smartphone with one carrier, though Dyle co-general manager (and NBC exec) Salil Dalvi noted that the MetroPCS deal wasn’t exclusive.
“MetroPCS is first, they’re leading the market, but you can envision if other carriers wanted to launch at some point I think everyone would be excited about that,” he said.
The Dyle-compatible smartphone will be available in parts of MetroPCS’s 14 major markets, although there will be a different numbers of channels in each city. New York and Los Angeles will each have 5-6 channels available, while Tampa may have just two, the service’s other co-general manager (and FOX exec), Erik Moreno, said. The channels will be simulcasts of local TV channels, right down to the ads.
“In LA, for example, you’ll see NBC, Fox, ION, Qubo and Telemundo,” Dalvi said.
To watch shows, you’ll load up a Dyle app and pick your show from an electronic program guide. There won’t be any DVR capabilities at launch.
The programming will be free for now, but it might not always be that way. While Dyle will be free in 2012, Dalvi said, the group may consider charging for programming in the future. He later said the company is open to possibly using some of NBC and Fox’s cable content (such as FX and Bravo) as well—those two ideas may go together.
“That’s not on our roadmap for 2012, but it’s obviously something we’ll think very carefully about in the future,” Dalvi said.
Along with the MetroPCS/Samsung/Dyle phone, CES will see a 7-inch, Android-powered tablet from RCA which will support the Dyle service, according to RCA spokesman Dave Arland.
The RCA tablet won’t be sold as a full-fledged tablet—it’ll be designed primarily to run the Dyle mobile TV app—but it’ll run a version of Android (albeit without the Market) and have Web browsing and alarm clock functions, Arland said. He didn’t give a release date or price for the new tablet.
One thing to remember, though: these are TVs, so they’ll only work where you get broadcast TV signal. That means they’ll work better by a window or outdoors than in an interior room.
“If there are issues indoors, we’ll learn along the way,” Dalvi said.