Why Mobile TV Will Eventually Be Free

from the look-at-the-trends dept

We’ve been less than bullish on the idea of mobile broadcast TV for some time. There are a number of basic problems with the idea, as many are trying to implement it. First, it’s still not a great viewing experience. Beyond the small screen and the choppy picture, watching TV on the go requires you to basically be sitting around doing nothing for a while. It might work for those who commute on public transportation every day… but beyond that? Then, there’s the rise of “time shifting” TV. Thanks to TiVo there’s simply not as much demand for watching TV live. On top of all of that, though, is the cost issue. If people are going to use mobile broadcast TV, they have to understand why it’s valuable, and with mobile operators looking to charge around $10/month for the privilege of watching a few choppy channels on a tiny screen… it’s a tough sell. The folks over at MTV are suggesting that going free and ad supported might be the best way for mobile broadcast TV, noting that “free is always good for the consumer.”

It’s good that some people are starting to realize this, but it’s not a question of whether or not free is the right model, but a recognition that it’s likely to be the only model. It seems like everyone investing big money in the mobile broadcast TV market are ignoring the growing competition from “place shifting” efforts from companies like Sling and Orb. In both cases, these companies will let users access their home TV (including their DVR) from mobile devices — and both only charge for the hardware, rather than an ongoing service fee. So, if your choices are spending $200 on a box that lets you access your home TV with its 200 channels and full access to your TiVo from anywhere in the world using any computer or mobile device… against paying $10/month for a limited selection of choppy live programming just on your phone, it seems like the place shifting companies have an advantage. Add to that the fact that it’s only a matter of time until cable and satellite providers start including Sling/Orb functionality directly into their existing set top boxes… and the pure play mobile broadcast TV efforts seem a lot harder to justify. Of course, then we’ll have to deal with the mobile operators complaining that their unlimited plans are being overused, while demanding that they be able to block TV viewing on phones, as it impacts the integrity of the network.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Mobile TV Will Eventually Be Free”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Joe T says:

No Subject Given

You’ve hit the nail on the head. When I travel, I watch shows ripped from my TiVo. The only thing I might want to see live would be news coverage of some major event – but then, I can read about it on my Treo. Also, when viewing mobile TV, you can’t get or make calls, right? Kinda obviates the reason for having the phone, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

The real solution will be that your PVR will write certain pre-selected shows (or music) to your phone’s SD card overnight while it is plugged into a WiFi enabled charge stand.

Once consumers get used to that, companies can start to add content like news, weather, short videos, full-length music samples, etc… which will be combined into a television-like experience (ie: while I am watching “Lost” the media player might insert a 30 sec weather forecast, traffic report, etc and then play a free sample video from an artist that fits my demographic profile after the show ends).

Only the short-burst stuff (traffic updates, weather, stock ticker, etc…) will be over the network. A majority of it will come from my own media content at home or will be pre-fetched while connected to my home broadband network.

Adam says:

Re: Re: screw TV

Agreed. But I still want my MTV … um … … I still want my “Today Show with Jon Stewart” and Battlestar Gallactica and several shows that seem to need a “conventional” form of budget.
TV needs an enema. Get rid of the sheeet content and deliver worthwhile viewing entertainment. Simple as that.
Watch it on any device regardless of how one my choose to shift time or space. (and how did some bozo come up with place-shifting as a variation on time-shifting instead of space-shifting?!)

Anyhoot. I think what we can expect is to see advertising become increasingly more tightly interwoven into the content so that skipping ads will be irrelevant because the ad will be part of the content.

The next time you see a celebrity mention a product, try to decide if it’s an endorsement, advertisement or genuine (unpaid) personal comment. Trust nobody. Just look at the cross-pollination of celebrity influence and political agenda. Scary. It’s a horrible thing that a character smokes a cigarette in a block-buster movie and another generation of impressionable teenagers rush out to practice looking cool. But it’s a whole new level of evil to hear “trusted” celebrities weaving product and brand endorsements into their everyday lives. Sad. Sad.

the unknown says:

television is the devil

Television is the devil and advertisers his mignons.
Now with Tv on mobile phones there will be a whole new breed of lawsuits rewarding idiots who get themselves into accidents “because i was watching tv on my phone and the program was so good i didn’t see the fire hydrant that busted my kneecap.”
This said, technological advances are an empirical good and high quality image+sound live on my mobile is something i look forward to. It’s the content that i often question, especially the news, it’s such a joke in the US (this is only a generalization of which i am open to debate, but between news and propaganda i hardly find the dividing line).
I am not a big fan of MTV, but i have to hand it to them this time, i applaud their stance on the issue. Content should be free especially if it’s going to be infested with advertising. On a side note, advertising laws should be seriously scrutinized in the US.

Martin says:

The cons of Slingboxs

I feel I have to add that you forget something. Although Sling and Orb might be a innovative way of supplying the users what they want, MobileTV (as far as I know) does not come with traffic fees. In order to access a home slingbox set over the mobile network you’d have to use a peer-to-peer connection. This would not only put a heavy load on the network, but also go through the “usual” pay-per-MB channel. I believe this could scare any potential users off. Any reflections on this matter?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...