by Mike Masnick

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    cell phone ringtones sanyo free sprint pcs downloa, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 12:32pm

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  2. identicon
    Jap Man, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 12:53pm

    Mobile TV in Japan

    There is already free Mobile Digital TV over airwaves in Japan, Want Proof? Just look at the Nintendo DS Lite Digital TV Tuner, its 320 X 240 resolution. Would work great on my Treo 650!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Joe T, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 3:42pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    BlackCow, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 5:13pm

    screw TV

    I say screw TV. The internet is much better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Adam, Feb 16th, 2006 @ 8:06pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    When I was a boy..., Feb 16th, 2006 @ 8:27pm

    Re: screw TV

    TV was free and received over the air. The only difference was it was received on a $300 tv not a $300 cell phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    the unknown, Feb 17th, 2006 @ 1:29am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Aldoliel, Feb 18th, 2006 @ 5:58am

    It's already being done,,,

    In the uk at least. Sky tv are already offering something similar. It's only short range (ie 30m or so) and it's only audio. But you get to pick and choose the channels and olny pay for the hardware. Could be the start of something good perhaps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    b1-66er, Feb 20th, 2006 @ 11:39am

    Re: screw TV

    But what will happen when the two collide this weekend?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    per, Feb 27th, 2006 @ 7:00am

    Re: Interruptions

    Watching mobile TV would NOT restrict calls or other top level/priority one events from interrupting viewing with a notification screen to accept or ignore the incoming request.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2006 @ 8:41am

    Re: Interruptions

    If you need to watch TV on your phone, i mean, man, the screens so small, gosh, get a PDA/Phone. Big screen, and with Window Media Player and Media Encoder you can just stream you TV Tuner to you PDA via WiFi, There you go, problem solved, --big screen--no stupid monthly fee--

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    jamma, Jul 19th, 2006 @ 7:41am

    i want free foxtel on my cell phone :'(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Deafbear, Aug 1st, 2006 @ 11:22am

    Free for tv ...on cellphone?

    I want to get free tv for my treo 650! But I don't how I find it in USA?

    Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    taimur, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 10:19pm

    want free

    hi sir !
    i want free cell phones plz. help me i need it urgent

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    sam hunt, Oct 19th, 2006 @ 12:38pm

    this web site says its free mobile tv and its avalible in the usa, uk and china

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Bruce Renny, Oct 23rd, 2006 @ 6:36am

    Free Mobile TV

    Free mobile TV is already here - check it out at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Troy, Nov 7th, 2006 @ 12:06pm

    Has anyone tried I'm a little hesitant due to the fact every software I download on my treo 650 kills the phone and I have to hard boot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Martin, Mar 20th, 2007 @ 2:24am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    prabhat jain, Jun 24th, 2007 @ 2:32pm

    mobile TV

    Orb does not have a mobile player, nor does it have a piece of hardware unlike Sling and Monsoon, both of which have mobile players.
    Orb requires being tethered to a PC, while Sling and Monsoon allow u to take your PC with u, simply connect their device to your set top box.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Asad, Mar 9th, 2008 @ 9:56pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    ashley, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    is tv good for you

    well its justn ot realty tv there is learning chaniels and thyere a chanel all about aminals and all that stufff some times you dont have to wach good shows there are some bad shows but you dont haveto learn all the time so stuff it up fuckers

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
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  26. identicon
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