RALEIGH, N.C. – A bus load of techies, telephone and TV execs and media types watched the mini screen as WRAL TV’s weather updates provided continuous updates about sever weather. They did so even as the bus moved at around 65 miles an hour down I-40.

A few minutes later, the demo of mobile digital television complete, the entourage realized they had just experienced broadcasting’s next level of technology.

“I think this is the future of broadcasting,” said Tom Howe, director and general manager for the University of North Carolina’s UNC TV. “This is impressive.”

Capitol Broadcasting and its high-tech business unit CBC New Media (of which Local Tech Wire is part) invited a select group of executives to see the first demo of mobile digital TV in North Carolina. Utilizing technology developed by LG Electronics and Zenith, its U.S. subsidiary, Capitol worked with Harris to put on the demo.

A variety of devices ranging from cell phones to a laptop were equipped with “tuner” chips and special antennas to receive the broadcasts live and on the move.

Howe, a veteran TV executive, believes the mobile pedestrian handheld, or MPH, technology will be embraced by broadcasters nationwide for one major reason – to add viewers.

“It can increase viewership tremendously,” Howe said, “or replace audience that is being lost to other media.”

He noted that 98 percent of U.S. households have “live” TVs but only 25 percent have such devices as digital video recorders. Viewers “like to watch live and be in touch” and MPH makes that possible, Howe added.

Broadcasters are worried about splintering of their audience as consumers get access to more alternatives for entertainment and news. Some, such as CBC Chief Executive Officer Jim Goodmon, see the ability to deliver digital TV to mobile devices as an important option for viewers. The signal is not delivered over a wireless provider network, such as MobiTV that can be viewed on some networks now. MPH utilizes digital spectrum that TV stations will move to entirely next year.

Only recently, however, did LG manage to solve the riddle of making TV signals viewable on a device that is moving. Since more than 250 million Americans have cell phones, smart phones and personal data assistants, MPH could be the technical means for TV stations to capture viewers during daily commutes – or just out shopping.

Making the demo Tuesday night especially timely were the storm clouds swirling around the Triangle.

“I had heard a lot about this,” Howe said of mobile TV, “but I was surprised by the quality and the stability.”

Despite the small screens, the “ticker” scrolling across the bottom with the latest storm warnings was sharp and readable. The video itself also was sharp and stayed in synch with the signal seen on a nearby, stationary high-definition plasma TV. And the sound was crystal clear.

A MobiTV signal displayed on another device was much slower, often froze, and was fuzzy to boot even though supported by a high-speed multimedia “3G” cellular network..

Goodmon said at the demonstration that he hopes broadcasters can negotiate with wireless carriers the integration of the new tuner chips in mobile devices. One benefit, he said as he had at an internal company demonstration on Monday, is that wireless carriers can use their networks for voice and data services like texting and gaming, not bandwidth-hungry video.

He also reiterated Capitol’s determination to make WRAL TV’s signal available on any platform viewers want. The MPH system could be used on virtually any device capable of displaying video, not just phones or laptops, either.

Not every broadcaster is likely to embrace MPH, however. Howe pointed out those ranks could include him since UNC TV doesn’t rely on live TV such as for news, weather and sports.

“This is not for us,” he said, “because this kind of capability does not fit what we do and what our viewers expect.”

But for those playing in the breaking news space, Howe said, MPH offers an opportunity to expand the TV franchise into an increasingly mobile world.