by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
distribution, mobile tv, television networks

TV Stations About To Make A Bad Bet On Mobile Broadcast TV

from the let's-see-how-that-works dept

Every few months over the past few years, we've heard stories about how some companies somewhere were betting on people watching broadcast television on their mobiles. The problem, however, is that it's always been companies betting on the phenomenon -- and not users clamoring for it. And, despite wild predictions from analyst firms who sell their reports to eager companies who want to convince their investors that something big is coming, almost every real world test has shown that people just aren't that interested in watching broadcast TV on their mobile phones. Sure, there are some people who will watch it, but two things that don't seem to go together all that well are "broadcast television" and "being mobile." Broadcast television is a "lean back" technology that you watch when you can sit back and relax. That generally doesn't fit with being mobile. Yet, despite all of these problems, it seems that a bunch of television networks are, once again, betting that people will want to access broadcast television from their mobile phones, despite little evidence to support that notion. A lot of money is going to get spent (and lost) before all of these companies realize they should have focused on offering something that people actually want.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    GeorgeT6, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 3:51am

    A bad bet on mobile ?

    While there is plenty of push by broadcasters to make mobile content the next big thing, I see plenty of market opportunity and demand by consumers. I cannot count the number of people I see watching video on Ipod's during the day. The big sell here will be getting live sports on these same devices. Perhpaps I and my associates are differnet in that I do not use TV as a 'lean back'. of the 6 hours a week of TV viewing I do 90% of it is at the gym or watching Hockey(and when that's over my hours go down to 2-3 hours a week)

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 4:16am

    This is not true for Sport event for people on the go.

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

  3. identicon
    ruffio, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 4:48am

    My Japanese friend has broadcast tv on his mobile and they've had it for some time in japan and its been a success.

    Even though he does admit to not actually using it much, unless he misses a show or wants to watch something later, he told me that the reason its mildly successfull is because its not forced upon consumers , so mobile companies arent advertising this technology as "the next big thing" they just through it in ,

    also the cost of wathcing is including in the contract itself, not like here in the uk were they want you to pay another monthly subscription fee

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

  4. identicon
    ScaredOfTheMan, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 5:23am


    Who are these people that watch Bcast tv on the go, I have yet to see one, and video on an iPod is much different, than bcast TV.

    I have to agree with the poster and say this is a waste of time and money by the mobile carriers and the TV stations. Besides if I really really really wanted to watch "live" TV on my tiny phone screen, they have a neat little device called a sling box, that lets me do that, and so much more, for less than 11 months of service subscription.

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

  5. identicon
    Ron, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 5:41am

    Could work

    If they gave it a DVR like experience I could see it. You record what you want, have it queued up and can skip commercials and so on. Another issue I see is quality of the stream, I've gotten steaming video to work on my device but I'm a techie. I don't think the average person will want to or be able to do what is needed to get things working right. Providers will need to ensure a quality out of the box experience. I wouldn't mind watching a good show on my lunch break.

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

  6. identicon
    Rafael A. Junquera, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:01am

    It could be different in this case

    I agree that mobile TV will not be a success if there is a subscription involved. However, what these TV networks seem to be proposing is just open TV, free TV. That is, is a free feature to have and the only cost would be the handset, probably more expensive than one without a TV chip. I have an Iphone and lately I have been watching the free episodes of well known TV shows that iTunes offers to catch you–they have not yet caught me but who knows. So, no one will watch a video while walking or diding a bicycle, but If you are waiting for something either sitting or standing, it could be a nice thing to have for free, at least is another choice to kill your time in those dead moments.

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

  7. identicon
    Gunnar, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:05am

    Where mobile TV is successful, there is also an abundance of passive public transportation. The only place I can see this being used is on trains and buses, things the U.S. sorely lacks.

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

  8. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:42am

    I am not that interested in

    watching broadcast TV on TV much less watching it on a tiny screen.

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

  9. identicon
    Alimas, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:11am


    I could see it working for sport events and thats about it.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:27am

    For someone who is always bitching about the need for media companies to come up with new business models, it's amazing how you do nothing but rain shit on their heads every time they come up with one.

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

  11. identicon
    Jake, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:11am

    Sticking an analogue or even digital TV receiver in a smartphone or palmtop I could just about see catching on -something similar for laptops has been around for a while, though it seems to be a bit of a niche market- but streaming it through GPRS or something I'd be less enthusiastic about, unless it was included in the provider's Internet plan without an extra subscription fee.

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

  12. identicon
    Joe, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:26am

    Re: exactly

    I think the reason it doesn't catch on here is that people don't want to pay extra for it. They don't mind and probably would like to watch TV via a mobile device but paying an extra $20 or more per month for this service just doesn't make sense to them.

    I would never pay for it, but if it was already in my contract without an increased cost I would probalby use it if the interface was easy enough to navigate.

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

  13. identicon
    niftyswell, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:53am

    not yet

    When cars can go driverless then I think mobile tv will be big and radio will become passe. That isnt supposed to even start happening until 2015 at the earliest and who knows what kind of content distribution will be available then? Otherwise there has to be a situation where you arent at home, dont need to be paying attention to anything else, and have half an hour or more to kill staring at a tiny screen.

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

  14. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:26am

    I Like The Idea

    I disagree with you here, Mike. Mobile Broadcast TV has largely been a failing idea, but that's because prior models always involved the carrier, and some ridiculously high subscription rate.

    We agree that broadcast is the lowest form of TV. PVR or personalized service is much better, especially for mobile.

    But if TV broadcasters, which are already broadcasting digital signals of their TV stations, simply added another transmitter on their existing towers, it would be quite cheap for them to add a QVGA stream for handsets. They already have transmitters, towers, backup power, staff, programming, and importantly, hours of content and regional broadcast rights each day.

    Of course, they should offer it for free, ad-subsidized, as they do their full-screen TV. And the carriers have nothing to do with it, so they don't get to take a big cut and raise the price.

    The only challenge is that carriers (in the US) currently subsidize and re-sell almost all the handsets that are used. They will not subsidize and promote devices that have off-air TV receivers that jeopardize their own mobile video service.

    Yet, as we know, carrier control is diminishing. Customers are slowly starting to buy their own phones, no subsidy, directly from the handset vendor. Nokia is pushing this, the EU, Asia, and other regions are leading this, shut out and small handset vendors are keen to sell straight to consumers, and the Web makes mail-order sales easier without a retail presence. In Japan, customers that buy their own phones want a digital TV receiver in it, so the handset vendors compete by offering one. Thus, they DO watch broadcast TV on their phones. I see this as a low-cost, low complexity mobile TV solution. Sure, it's also low-value to consumers, but it's one of the only cases of mobile video worldwide where the price matches the value.

    Do I think mobile video will exist the way carriers, MobiTV, Qualcomm, and DVB-H Forum think it will work? NO. People won't pay $10+ per month, people won't pay much at all for broadcast. People will expect a range of video content for free.

    Asked a different question: Do I think mobile video will be around in 5 years? Yes, I think almost every phone, and almost every subscriber will use some amount of mobile video on their phone.

    Derek Kerton
    The KERTON Group
    Strategy - Partnerships - Marketing
    for Wireless and Telecom 408-935-8702

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

  15. identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 12:38pm

    I predict that not only will there be an extra monthly fee, here in the US, users will be expected to pay by the minute to watch content.

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

  16. identicon
    Known Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 5:28pm

    I personally carry both a smartphone and a laptop with slingbox software with me. I never miss a live ballgame or motor contest no matter where I am or what I am doing, Plus, I never have to schedule "being home" to do so. On the boat, lawnmower, in the truck, motorhome, shop, I'm ready. I will subscribe to my wireless phone provider for what?

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

  17. identicon
    oregonnerd, Apr 19th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    tv phones

    So whatever happened to the glasses you could somehow watch television on in a semi-transparent medium? sounds great. At least it wouldn't cause driver distraction...then again, video games on glasses sounds even better. [Oops, dam'. That was a real police car...]

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

  18. identicon
    Jim, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Is it really the fact that they are Mobile?

    What I feel is the real issue is that you really cannot watch a Video/Movie or whatever on a 2" X 2" screen. It has always been the Size, from Surfing the net to viewing any kind of action on these small Phone Screens is a joke.

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

  19. identicon
    Industry Analyst, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 9:36am

    "Mobile" does not mean "cellphone"

    Somehow people have come to assume that mobile video necessarily involves a cellphone and a cellular network operator. The National Association of Broadcasters is now working on a standard that will permit local broadcasters to put 1, 2, 3 or more mobile channels on their existing digital channels.

    I've said it in these forums before... The battle here is not going to be for the cellphone customer. It's going to be between the local broadcaster and the MediaFLO in the US. With MediaFLO struggling to get top-tier cities and wrangling with operators for the meager revenue they'll receive from subscribers, local broadcasters are going to use free spectrum and cheap transmitters to provide free, ad-supported programming (the way they have for the past 50 years) to devices that you purchase at an electronics store.

    If you're not watching ATSC-M/H, you're not paying attention to "Mobile Video."

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

  20. identicon
    iik7, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 2:56pm

    I can't count the number of people I see watching video on their ipod either! But for me, it's because there aren't any.

    Yes it is big in Japan. 3G networks make tv content a logical choice, and it has caught on. Just because something is popular there doesn't mean it will be here! People in Japan have long commute rides by train each day and many other reasons why it might work there and not here. Newspapers are also incredibly popular there, I guess we should make more of those too...

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

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