by Mike Masnick

Reminder To Mobile Phone Industry: It's About Communications, Not Content

from the why-do-they-keep-forgetting dept

We've never quite understood the fascination from those in the mobile phone industry with mobile broadcast TV. It has almost everything going against it. It's incredibly expensive to set up (witness the money spent by Qualcomm alone), it's of limited utility and it doesn't really add much value. If you want something new to catch on, it has to allow people the ability to do something that they simply couldn't do before. However, mobile TV has been tried in the past and failed. Sony had a portable handheld TV that did poorly on the market, as the appeal for mobile broadcast video just isn't that strong. If you're on the go, you're not likely to have much time to sit down and watch a full hour, or even half-hour, TV program. Also, with the advent of time shifting, there are even fewer reasons to want to "watch stuff now."

But the biggest thing working against mobile broadcast TV is the whole concept that it's broadcast. It's almost as if the mobile industry hasn't paid attention to what's been happening to the content industry over the past decade. It's facing quite the challenging atmosphere, as there's lots more competition than ever before, and new technologies let people get around the annoying aspects of the broadcast business model (i.e., intrusive advertising). Even more to the point, people view mobile phones as communications devices, not content devices. So, if there's any interest in mobile video, we expected it would be more for communications than broadcast -- and it appears that others are coming around to this view as well. Deloitte & Touche's latest report suggests that mobile broadcast video has little compelling future, and the real opportunity is in helping people create their own content and then share and distribute that content to a wider audience. Would have been nice if they had told the mobile industry before they put up billions to build broadcast-only mobile networks.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ellen, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 4:41pm

    Mobile Web 2.0

    IMO you're completely correct in your arguments, Mike. Let me add one more. The mobile industry continues to operate as if they make all the rules, regardless of the data that stares them in the face (and, increasingly, beats them over the head). Web 2.0 is about community. YouTube, Myspace, Flickr, etc. Users creating and sharing THEIR worlds. Is there any reason to believe that Mobile Web 2.0 will not also be about community? The mobile industry talks a lot about crystal balls. Perhaps they might want simply to read the available signposts?

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 4:53pm

    Proof read, Mr."journalist". You should have learned that in kindergarten.

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

  3. identicon
    Scott, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:21pm

    Content is the Future

    It's all about content these days, and content is definitely the future. Companies are grabing on to content providers quicker than ever. Comcast has certain providers for "onDemand." at&t has signed providers for its IPTV service. ITunes has Disney. It is in line with the future of technology. We all saw what content from Howard Stern did for Sirrius.

    Basically, you have to remeber that these companies are looking for long term stratigies that they feel would make them money, and unless you know something they don't, they have probably picked the best option

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

  4. identicon
    faces, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:29pm


    hmmmm lets use some of this broadcast tech for video converencing....

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

  5. identicon
    Tyshaun, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:29pm

    One possible use for mobile broadcast TV

    If they don't charge extra for it, mobile broadcast TV could be the poor mans in car entertainment. Just a thought...

    Also, the next logical step would be some type of on demand offering from your cell phone. As you get lots more memory, I could see being able to download 1 or 2 movies during off peak time or something (or even download the movies to your phone from your computer or other media device), and again, it could be a cheap portable entertainment system.

    Also, what about selling peripherals like adapters for external monitors. Then you could turn your cell phone into a content system for your car, again cheaply (why not make it so you can also use the browser capability and allow it to connect to full size pages when connected to an external monitor).

    Again, the operative word is providing the functionality above at marginal cost, instant value add.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Content is the Future

    You're confused, Comcast and AT&T are offering broadcast systems, it is what we expect of them. ITunes is also a broadcast medium, just of a different nature. I uses my cell phone to communicate, I use my TV to watch content, that is a world of difference.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:44pm

    you don't love anybody. you need tv at all times. duh.

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

  8. identicon
    tokjdm, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 8:11pm

    TV on mobile is not necessarily a dead end

    I am not convinced by this post. Witness the development of one seg tv in Japan (called in this way because it uses a dedicated single segment of frequency with strong error corrections capabilities), a digital tv broadcasting specially geared for moving receivers, car tv and mobiles but also any other kind of products (watches, etc.). Watching a film on a mobile screen may not be the ultimate experience but it is certainly worthwhile for news programs (including urgent announcements such as earthquake and tsunamis which routinely appear on Japanese TV within minutes of the event). Streaming tv from one's home cable tuner is also a possibility with 3G internet connections on mobiles but digital broadcasting is more likely to survive a major disaster than internet streaming.

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

  9. identicon
    frank, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 9:33pm

    PC cell phone

    The cell phone is going to end up being a portable PC. Converge everything a PC can do and use adapters to hook up to monitors and other perefials. So maybe there just coming out with a new app every year until some day wel end up with a cheap PC cell phone. They probably already have it but will keep soaking the masses with cheap thrill apps as long as they can.

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

  10. identicon
    Nick Barker, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 10:07pm

    If my mobile had a grey scale screen and only made calls, i would not be amused. I'm waiting for the iphone, its not about communications, its ALL about content.

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

  11. identicon
    Hi Def, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 10:52pm

    Re: It's ALL about content

    I thought it was all about video quality. I can hardly remember the last movie that I wasn't disapointed with my myself for wasting the time watching it. I find much greater entertainment on short youtube clips than the garbage peddled by the entertainment industry. Let's face it. Most content really sucks and the last thing I want to do is watch a crappy sitcom on my phone.

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

  12. identicon
    MyCellPhoneHasADigitalTVTuner, Jan 19th, 2007 @ 12:54am

    Well, in the Japanese market........

    Digital TV for mobile phones has been available in Japan for almost ten months, in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, using a standardized broadcast format defined by ARIB. All three carriers have at least one tv phone model, and the two larger carriers put tuners in about a third of their lineup at the moment. According to studies by Macromill (June 2006) and Goo Research (August 2006), 80% of cell phone users would like to purchase a TV phone within "the next year" (Goo), and owners of TV phones were watching an average of 35 minutes a day (Macromill). Of course, Macromill's study only questioned owners (obviously) of tv phones and was done two months after public broadcasting started, so the figures were heavily weighted by presumably including a large percentage of early adopters and industry types.

    The Japanese broadcast industry is famous for not releasing detailed viewer ratings data, and there are no plans to impliment a ratings system for at least four years, so unfortunately there is no accurate data right now as to how much this technology is really being used on a daily basis.

    As an aside, I think the reasoning behind the lack of ratings is that rather than a fear that nobody is using the technology, the worry is that you can theoretically get ratings data of Internet quality (actual total viewers, etc.) for broadcast with tv phones. As mobile Digital TV is currently limited to simulcast of the normal analog and digital broadcast signals here, broadcasters are probably nervous about there being a noticeable gap between the panel based ratings for normal broadcast and the more accurate ratings which could be gained from tv phones. Such a gap would cause a crises in the Ad Agency Broadcast Media TV Ratings Monopoly Cartel which feeds off of advertisers with bloated pricing.

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

  13. identicon
    Homer, Jan 19th, 2007 @ 11:56am

    Better Ways

    I have 2 comments. 1st, in Korea it sounds like they have things right for their customers. I have read about how people there do everything with their handsets...games, tv, sms and even phone calls. They have a lot of options that they like.

    2nd I think what we are getting from our cell providers in the US is not what customers really want. Walled gardens and getting nickel and dimed are 2 things people don't like. What would work better here is for people to pay for bandwidth (cellular too) and then use it to watch the content they choose (some free some paid for). I have friends with data plans that watch sling mobile on their phones when at the airport or wherever when there is downtime (paid content) and watch internet videos some too. I'll pay for my "tubes", but let me decide what to fill it with.

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

  14. identicon
    Joe T, Jan 19th, 2007 @ 12:53pm

    The only time I use my "Sprint TV" on my Treo is when I'm travelling and there's a breaking news story that I want to catch up on in more detail than I can on a web site. As noted in the article, I haven't the time to watch TV when I'm on the go -- and if I did, I'd get annoyed when people called me - which is why I have the silly phone in the first place.

    I *might* watch a sports highlight clip while waiting on a line, perhaps, but to date I haven't -- it just hasn't occurred to me to do so. I usually check email and maybe CNN.com.

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

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