Each of the last, oh, 4 or 5 years has been heralded as "the year of mobile TV," despite plenty of questions over the real demand
for a paid recreation of old-school broadcast television, a medium that's falling out of favor as people look to DVRs and on-demand services. It's already looking like 2009 won't be any different, as Qualcomm is talking up the expansion plans
for its MediaFLO network, saying it will be available in an additional 46 markets by the end of next year. The implication is that by having 108 active markets instead of 62, it's primed to take off. But if the people in those 46 extra markets have roughly the same demand for the service as those in the existing markets, it's hard to see a huge bump in growth. Indeed, as the original story notes, "MediaFLO hasn't taken off as quickly as [Qualcomm] had hoped, and it's unclear how many users the service has through its partnerships with Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
It adds, however, that among its user base, live events like the US Open golf tournament cause big spike in viewer numbers (again, though, that's viewers -- not subscribers). This is one area where mobile TV could hold some promise, as live events like sports or breaking news still call for a traditional broadcast model. But the subscription-based model remains a big barrier, particularly as consumers look to reign in their spending. There are lots of mobile services billed as being "just $5 or $10 a month," but given tighter household purse strings, that "just $5" is going to hold back the growth of many of them.