AT&T Won't Give Up On Mobile TV, Now Wants To Sell You $1300 Gear To Watch Cartoons In Your Car

from the that's-a-lot-for-some-cartoons dept

Despite a ton of hype from its backers over the years, there's been very little interest in mobile TV services -- especially with the current subscription-based model. AT&T launched its mobile TV offering using Qualcomm's MediaFLO service last year, and given the lack of news about it, it doesn't seem to have set the world on fire. But AT&T doesn't seem to have learned too much from that experience and adapted its business model to a new satellite-based mobile TV offering that's made for in-car use, preferring instead to trod the same path with a sizable monthly service fee and expensive equipment. For just $1299 for the equipment (not including professional installation) and $28 per month, its CruiseCast service will deliver customers 22 channels of TV and 20 audio channels. Even if these weren't trying economic times, the pricing seems pretty prohibitive, and it's hard to imagine this service will find much more success than other similar efforts. Further, it's really difficult to see a future for any sort of mobile TV service that's built around the subscription model, especially when it tries to force customers back into linear programming schedules, and give up the control that their DVRs and other on-demand technologies offer.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Because we all know that putting TV shows on your phone or iPod/portable media player is just so fricken hard.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    criddell, May 21st, 2009 @ 8:09am

    There is definitely a market for this stuff. Around where I live, the DirectTV box from TracVision is becoming a pretty common sight. It is expensive, but works quite well. With more competition in this market, prices will come down.

    The AT&T offer isn't actually not all that expensive, relatively speaking. Go to a car dealership and check out the prices on factory installed dvd players. They are often $2000+ options.

    Also, why would you assume that DVR's and on-demand services aren't coming? I would assume they are.

    -cr

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    chris (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    Because we all know that putting TV shows on your phone or iPod/portable media player is just so fricken hard.

    it's not hard to do, but if you do it the easy way it's most likely illegal. changing from one format to another often involves stripping the original formats protections which is a big no-no according to hollywood.

    i think AT&T won't give up because mobile TV is big in europe and asia where lots of people take public transit.

    the trouble with mobile anything in the US is that everyone drives and if you so much as think about touching a mobile phone within 100 feet of a moving vehicle then chances are you are breaking some sort of law.

    so, mobile TV/movies/whatever is pretty easy to do and comes in super handy in a bunch of situations, as long as you don't mind breaking the law.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Longfellowx, May 21st, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Agreed. Little doubt that this too will prove a failure. The question then is whether there is any mobile TV model that will provide customers what they want - I say mobile in the sense that you can access new content while on the move, not the ability, noted above, to transfer content to a mobile device. A compelling mobile video experience requires three things - decent quality (close to what you can get now via an iTunes download), ability to access content on-demand, and a large amount of available quality programming (i.e., not just two minute throw-away add-ons from the Office).

    I have real doubts that today's current wireless technology can supply all three - at least enough to make it appealing to the masses. Video quality via 3G is fine, but nothing compared to an iTunes download. Video quality is better via Media FLO, but that lacks good on demand capability and it's too expensive. Broadcasters will be offering free mobile TV soon (with better quality), but will the old school linear broadcasting model work in the mobile TV environment?

    I think all of these companies have grossly overestimated the desire for a mobile TV, and lots of companies like AT&T are going to lose millions because of that pie-in-the-sky thinking.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2009 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re:

    "it's not hard to do, but if you do it the easy way it's most likely illegal."

    God, who knew that iTunes and Amazon's Unbox are illegal? Why aren't the feds cracking down on these illegal services?!

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    I have real doubts that today's current wireless technology can supply all three

    Well, I would include satellite broadcasting should be included in any list of current wireless technology. The quality is definitely there as is the quantity. No idea about on-demand capabilities.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 9:22am

    with the average person changing cars after 5 years, you REALLY need to love TV in order to dish out 600 USD per month for 2 max 3 hrs a day of TV viewing.

    WTG AT&T

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    chris (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    God, who knew that iTunes and Amazon's Unbox are illegal?

    and those files will tansfer to and play on your phone as is? perhaps if you have an iphone and only buy from itunes, but for the rest of us, converting a file to avi, wmv, or mpg is likely to be a DMCA violation.

    it doesn't stop me from doing it, but it's likely stop your mom and dad (the people who pay for downloads in the first place) from doing so.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Jake, May 21st, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Good Idea, Wrong Approach

    You don't actually need much in the way of special equipment for this; I have personally witnessed several truckers propping a regular satellite dish -the little ones Sky use in this country- against their vehicle so they can watch television in the cab, and I once saw one bolted to the roof of an RV. With a lightweight omni-directional antenna and a decoder box that could run off a 12v supply I don't suppose it'd be hard to pick up a signal on the move and pipe it to an in-car entertainment screen. Hell, the way Sky satellite works it wouldn't even cost extra; their viewing cards can be swapped freely between decoder boxes.

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Reference Point

    I know this isn't the same as mobile TV as provided by AT&T or TracVision, but the market for media consumption is contested by direct substitutes, and indirect ones like this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Audiovox-D1788PK-7-Inch-Portable-Headphones/dp/B0015ZA5WC/ref=sr_1_8? ie=UTF8&s=miscellaneous&qid=1242927936&sr=8-8

    If you can get a portable DVD player for less than $80 bucks, how much of the market will pay for the in-car AT&T setup. Some, I'm sure, but not much.

    Now consider that there is increasing competition from devices people already have, smartphones, media players, PSPs, etc. That saps the demand for expensive in-car systems, and certainly expensive subscriptions.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As far as I can tell, I don't use the service, Unbox videos can play on all portable PlaysForSure devices such as my Zen. But I was wrong, apparently, because you cannot transfer such files to phones. At least, I could not find a PlaysForSure phone. Amazon is missing a huge opportunity here.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Comboman, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:26am

    cheap satellite bandwidth?

    Maybe Sirius/XM is cutting them a deal on their (post-merger) redundant satellite bandwidth?

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    batch, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    The carpocalypse looms

    Do people pay for these when the screen is only in the backseat? That seems like a steep price. Although I'd be a sad panda if the put the screens in the front seat because then some jackass would probably just rear end me on the interstate every couple miles. A screen in the front seat would be good for when the car is parked. Include satellite internet access with wifi and then there just might be enough value to justify a tv subscription for my car.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    ToySouljah, May 21st, 2009 @ 6:49pm

    Re: The carpocalypse looms

    Well, actually it is illegal in most states to have a screen in the front seat on while driving. The players are supposed to have a safety feature that ties to the cars parking break so that you have to have the parking break on in order to have the player play video (in the front). Headunits that play video have separate outputs for rear monitors and the video playback associated with the in-dash unit has the parking break safety feature. A lot of people simply bypass it or simply add an external monitor and plug it to one of the rear outputs in order to trick the unit into thinking that the screen is not in view of the driver. If installed correctly though the units are built to be safe and would prevent people from watching TV and driving which is a no no, but due to lack of common sense, I'm sure someone will think it is cool and they will do it anyway until it becomes a big enough problem that they will be forced to pass a federal law concerning it when there really is no need.

    I think some laws need to be reviewed and removed since it is not natural to have people that are too stupid to use common sense survive for so long....natural selection seems to be a thing of the past unfortunately since we feel the need to "protect" those that can not think intelligently for themselves.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Robert Vargas, May 22nd, 2009 @ 9:20am

    You should know that AT&T Mobile TV, aka MediaFLO, is on two AT&T handsets (might be up to 4 by now), and is $15.99 per month with 12 channels of linear programming. By contrast, these guys also offer MobiTV for $9.99 per month with over 40 channels. I watch live ESPN Sunday Night Baseball on it, full episodes of the Office and a ridiculous amount of music videos. AT&T announced that it was their top-selling application recently. I agree that the subscription model by itself is probably not sustainable over the long haul, but why do the problems of MediaFLO get all the attention when its obvious that people are buying & using MobiTV?

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Derek Kerton, May 22nd, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    "why do the problems of MediaFLO get all the attention when its obvious that people are buying & using MobiTV?"

    Because MobiTV has been around for about 7 years, and their growth stagnated years ago, as they had a limited number of people willing to pay the monthly nut, plus more for premium channels.

    Also, as linear TV programming, MobiTV does not offer personalized viewing schedules. Yet as a unicast technology, it consumes as much bandwidth as expected by sending an individual stream to each phone. Worst of both worlds!

    OK, so now I've given some attention to the problems of MobiTV, too. Happy?

    Services like MobiTV may eventually prosper, however, as 3.5G and 4G technologies might have adequate capacity to make then economically feasible (charge lower prices, grow the market).

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But I was wrong, apparently, because you cannot transfer such files to phones. At least, I could not find a PlaysForSure phone.

    and that is why the anti-circumvention laws in the DMCA are so anti-consumer. you chose to go with amazon, you are now limited to plays-for-sure players.

    if you buy an ipod or an iphone, there is no guarantee that your legally downloaded videos will play. also, if microsoft pulls the plug on plays-for-sure, you might be up the creek.

    but, MS is a huge company, plays-for-sure will be around for ever, right? i mean MS is bigger than apple, with like a bunch more money, surely they won't trash plays-for-sure, right?

    just keep in mind, microsoft's flagship player, the zune, is not plays-for-sure.

    sobering thought, isn't it?

    so, you can download DRM free content from bit torrent illegally. or you can legally purchase content that may stop working at a later date and strip the defunct DRM off later, which is also illegal.

    you are a criminal either way. so why not go with the option that let's you get the content for free at the beginning?

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    porno izle, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    with the average person changing cars after 5 years, you REALLY need to love TV in order to dish out 600 USD per month for 2 max 3 hrs a day of TV viewing.porno izle,sikiş izle

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This