Broadcasters are among the first sources of information citizens turn to during emergencies. A new survey from advocates of NextGen TV illustrates broadcasters’ vital role and what consumers are looking for in how they get their information and what specifically they want.
In a survey conducted by the NextGen Video Information Systems Alliance (NVISA), and sponsored by Sinclair Broadcast Group’s subsidiary, ONE Media 3.0, consumers were asked about what types of information they would look for in a mobile app that provides the type of granular information provided by NextGen TV.
On the top of the list, almost two-thirds said they wanted “the ability to receive geo-targeted alerts,” while more than half wanted “the ability to select only the alerts they want to receive” and “the ability to opt into a constantly updated stream of emergency information.”
Reliability was next on the list, with almost half of those surveyed wanting “a system that keeps working when their Internet goes down,” and more than a third wanting “a system that keeps working when their cellular phone service goes down.”
Consumers were also surveyed on what features in a new advanced emergency information app would motivate them to use it. With the ability to provide street-level geo-targeted information, NextGen TV offers the types of features consumers want, the report said, with almost two-thirds of those surveyed saying the costs of such targeted services were not seen as a deterrent.
When asked how much more they would be willing to pay for their next mobile phone purchase to deliver critical information in an emergency, almost two thirds of American consumers said they would pay an extra $5 and almost half said they would pay an extra $10.
Whether consumers get their information from a traditional broadcaster, streaming broadcast or mobile app, the survey proved what has been known for a long time: mobile devices are the first source consumers turn to during emergencies.
“This study gives broadcasters a wake-up call on the need to improve their mobile services,” NVISA said in its study, noting that the youngest survey respondents were the least enthusiastic about turning to local broadcasters as the “first stop” to get information. “These younger viewers are very mobile-centric. ATSC 3.0 will enable broadcasters to add the interactive features to their mobile apps that younger viewers expect,” NIVSA said.
When it comes to getting NextGen TV onto smartphones, manufacturers have resisted the call to integrate chipsets into their devices. The only such device announced so far is the ONE Media Mark One phone that Sinclair developed in partnership with Saankhya Labs in India that includes support for NextGen TV. When it was announced in the fall of 2020 Sinclair said at the time that it was “in talks with two large MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators)” but no progress has been reported since then.
To overcome this hurdle then, broadcasters will need to find alternatives such as third-party cloud-based apps that can be used on mobile devices. However, the notion of broadcasters monetizing emergency information through an app could cause some blowback from regulators in particular.
But there could also be an opportunity to provide value-added information beyond basic emergency alerts, according to John Lawson, executive director of AWARN, a consortium of broadcasters, manufacturers and associations tasked with developing and promoting NextGen alerting technology.
“There could be acceptance of a business model that led to the provision of emergency information after the disaster strikes,” he said. “In other words, people might need information about where they can find generators or plywood or tarps for shelters—that could be a model that would be acceptable and make sense.”
The bottom line is that during emergencies, consumers look for the most trustworthy information available and the survey showed that broadcasters are among the most trusted sources and that they need to promote that capability, Lawson added, citing research from Dennis Mileti, a world-renowned expert on disaster communication.
“The research of Dennis Mileti tells us that the first time a consumer sees an alert it is important that they know where it comes from,” Lawson said. “If they do not recognize the branding of its source, they will keep milling around looking for a completely credible source… alerts that go out with branding that is clearly recognizable on the local level will have the most impact.”
The study is available here.
A version of this story first appeared in our sister publication TV Technology.