I’ve attended a couple of mobile conferences recently and chatted with the folks responsible for Vodafone’s mobile TV initiative. I’ve sat though multiple operators extolling the success of their mobile TV roll-outs. I’ve seen a bevy of products released to do pre-roll and post-roll ad insertions, new handset introductions and marketing campaigns from the network operators. I’m always amazed with their gusto for piping TV to the mobile phone but what concerns me is whether anyone is asking for it? Something is missing.
What’s mobile TV? Not to be confused with viewing YouTube videos on a mobile iPhone style, mobile TV aims to display what you’d normally receive over the air from DVB-T broadcasts. But since you are moving, the way this is broadcast is differently to how the home TV signal is broadcast. Also noteworthy is that the operators now control programming, not BBC1 or Sky.
So what’s missing? Consumer demand. Nobody wants mobile TV. Phones are not TVs. Their screens are too small and even if they were bigger, phone use is orientated around short bursts of communications orientated activity and not around watching the next episode of “24”. And here’s the real kicker: you have to have a special, extra klunky, battery sapping, mobile phone to view mobile TV.
Currently people want phones with GPSs, navigation software and cameras. I’ve not heard a single person ask for a mobile TV. If they did, I’d send them out to buy the latest DVB-T portable TV. It works and I don’t pay â‚¬3 to view a 3 minute clip. Sure it may not work so well on the move, but in Europe people move on public transport and wouldn’t want to disturb those around them or drive in which case they shouldn’t be watching TV anyway (incidentally I see the DVB-T equipped Mercs now shut off the TV the moment you start moving).
The future will not in be in carriers’ TV offerings. Especially when the operators are controlling the programming: carriers excel at running marketing campaigns and operating a billing infrastructure (heck, most of them don’t even run their own networks anymore). That’s the way it should be. So would you want your carrier deciding which videos you should watch? No, the future will be in an iPhone style approach – unlimited internet use with access to YouTube type sites where the users’ peers email them with short recommended clips. And like all nascent industries, this will be most likely start with porn.
Remember when AOL used to try and “do content”? Now they do pipes. All ISPs now just do pipes and eventually the opeators will grasp this too. An ISP trying to do content would be dead in the water. Even ISPs offering TV packages just rebroadcast pre-existing channels.
The exciting stuff is found at the edge of the net. Users will migrate to carriers that provide them with a cheap pipe to the edge. To the Flickrs, to the YouTubes to their home-grown app, to Mrs Robinson’s recipe collection. When did we last see a carrier innovate and produce the same level of content as all these sites – never! It’s just not in their DNA. The same way they now shop around for cheap (but reliable) DSL providers they will shop around for mobile pipes to video clip sites. A mobile operator’s video offering will be routed around and ignored. And the marketing train will move on to advertising the carriers latest cheap data package. Thankfully.