After waking up and finding another dozen or so articles in my aggregator about Mobile TV, I figured I would wade in with some quick thoughts. Nothing too profound, I just wanted to point out the obvious in case you've missed it. Almost every article I've read about the topic over the past few months - and especially since CES - brings up the same questions which some pundit or interviewee tries to answer: Will people adopt Mobile TV, and will it be a profitable new medium for advertisers or content creators? The answers are "no one knows" to both. Pretty obvious, huh?
Seriously, it seems that every day I see conflicting new surveys and stats from mobile TV trials around the world, which are basically written with whatever slant the person writing about the topic wants to give it. "50% of Mobile TV capable handset owners watch!" or "50% of Mobile TV handset owners could care less!". You get the idea. Everyone it seems, has their opinion about whether or not consumers will like watching video on a small portable screen. I have my opinion too, but I'm going to keep that to myself in this post. What I want to say is this: Mobile TV is a reality. Whether it'll be a rampaging success or not, no one can say for certain, but the technology is real, the rollouts are happening right now, and it's not going away any time soon.
Think you're hearing a lot about it now? Mobile TV is just going to get more and more prevalent over the next couple years. There's tons of momentum in the area, even if we've only seen a few commercial products so far here in the U.S. Yes, the first solutions introduced during the past year or so ago were definitely less than optimal - MobiTV choppily "streamed" over GPRS using a Java client is a good example - but networks are getting faster, and handsets are getting more powerful and alternative sources like iTunes video are popping up everywhere. Verizon and Sprint both have decent mobile video experiences over their EV-DO networks right now. And soon we'll have digital TV receivers built right into the handsets themselves capable of streaming 10-50 channels of high-quality content right to your phone, just like your cable TV. There are phones right now in Korea which do this already, *and* have PVRs built right in, so you can pause and record shows right on the handset for viewing later. Go read about it, it's amazing stuff - Wikipedia is your friend: DVB-H, DMB, and MediaFLO .
Now, to continue stating the obvious - if people end up disliking mobile TV, then the financial incentive for it will go away and the services will disappear or mutate shortly after they're offered. In terms of a business, maybe consumers will accept commercials on their phones - which will allow cheaper subsidized programming - or maybe they'll hate them - which will lead to more HBO-like channels instead. Maybe people will love Video Podcasts, maybe they'll think they suck. Maybe people will like per-show purchases like iTunes, maybe they'll demand all-you-can-eat subscriptions. Starting to get my point? No one really knows.
What is known is this, there's no turning back on this stuff. So next time you see an article saying that such and such a country is adopting mobile TV at such and such a pace or that this group thinks that about mobile TV, just realize that it matters very little right now. There's tons and tons of companies working on solutions, tons of different ideas out there in terms of content and commercialization, and tons of different paths to the consumer.
Ahh, now I feel better. :-)