Cardiff May Get Hyperlocal Mobile TV As Digital Dividend Welcomes New Players

Cardiff multimedia design house Cube Interactive plans to launch a hyperlocal mobile broadband TV service in the city and surrounding area using radio spectrum it is expected to be awarded later this week – a perfect example how Britain’s digital dividend can bring new entrants to the marketplace.

paidContent:UK understands the company is set to win the second chunk of Ofcom’s so-called “interleaved” spectrum – the 542-550Mhz band that currently acts as a buffer between TV transmitters but which is being auctioned in the analogue TV switch-off. Manchester’s local Channel M won the first portion earlier this month to ensure carriage on Freeview.

But Cube CEO Wil Stephens told me the process has more to offer than just TV: “We believe there is great potential in hyperlocal media, and are excited to be involved in the developing landscape of digital services beyond traditional broadcasting. We’re in preliminary discussions with technological and content partners.

There are opportunities for us, along with partners and clients, to deliver mobile-television (DVB-H) as well as mobile broadband. I believe in the potential of this sort of technology, and the commercial opportunities surrounding them to be greater than traditional straight-up broadcasting to your television, although this might form part of the spectrum. After all, we have a lot of spectrum space to play with.”

Cube works primarily with broadcasters, has produced lots for BBC, S4C and Channel 4 and won an interactive design Bafta Cymru last year for its work on S4C’s youth programming strand Cyw. The award of this spectrum will be an opportunity for it to leverage its contacts in Wales’ independent broadcast and production arena to create a new service. It’s only surprising that other, established players did not win ahead of Cube – Trinity Mirror’s newsrooms in the region are now producing videos that could benefit from wider distribution; but it’s understood Cube’s was the only application that qualified to participate in the auction.

There are wider possibilities, too – to offset ITV’s waning local commitment, the regulator’s big public service broadcasting review last month called for an “alternative” model for news in the nations and regions, one that should distribute across “not only broadcast but across various digital media”, potentially including portions of the former analogue spectrum like that which Cube has won. Ofcom said new entrants could bid for £30 million to £50 million annual funding.