Do you dream of watching TV from your mobile phone? I don’t. But apparently others do, which is why handset makers, carriers, and the numerous other service providers that make up the mobile ecosystem are toiling like Santa’s elves to make mobile TV a reality.
Actually, it already is real – a company called MobiTV has more than 1 million subscribers to its service, which streams programming from ESPN, Fox, MSNBC, The Weather Channel and many other cable channels to Sprint, Cingular and Alltel customers. Another company, GoTV Networks, produces original on-demand programming with channels like Hip Hop Official and College All Access for Sprint, Nextel and Cingular subscribers.
It’s a complex environment, replete with competing technologies across multiple formats. Two standards are emerging for streaming TV-quality video to mobile phones. Nokia and other members of a group called the Mobile DTV Alliance are supporting DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds), which has been in test mode since 2005. Nokia recently launched its first DVB-H handset, the N92, in Vietnam and Indonesia. I read somewhere that the phone will cost the equivalent of $750 in Vietnam – immediately eliminating most Vietnamese consumers from consideration. Don’t expect to see the service in the U.S. until well into next year.
The other emerging standard is called FLO (Forward Link Only), developed by Qualcomm through its MediaFLO subsidiary. Qualcomm has Verizon Wireless in its corner for MediaFLO services, which were expected in the U.S. this year but are being pushed out to next year (at the earliest).
I did an article on mobile advertising last month for The Advertiser
(you can’t view it online, unfortunately) (posted here in PDF, courtesy of The Pohly Company, which published the mag for the Association of National Advertisers). The execs I interviewed spoke to the complexity of the medium. David Bluhm, CEO of GoTV, called mobile “10 times more complex than current channels,” adding, “It’s a nightmare, and it’s not getting better anytime soon.” The challenges stem from the form factor – it’s not easy getting quality video on a 2×2-inch screen – and the fact that video content must be optimized for all of the various handsets, accommodating different screen sizes, operating systems and various subfunctions.
The complexity, of course, will be passed along to consumers in terms of monthly subscription fees, which will likely keep mobile video in its niche for the forseeable future. Expect advertisers to subsidize the costs, either through banner or in-video advertising or through a sponsorship model (less invasive). Advertisers have an opportunity through mobile video to develop the closest thing to a true one-to-one relationship with consumers – what’s more personal than a mobile phone? – but the technology also presents an opportunity for brands to royally screw up if they try to hijack the viewing experience.
You can read the full Advertiser article (in PDF form) here, courtesy of The Pohly Company, which publishes the mag for the Association of Natin