With mobile handset and operating system technology advancing at the rate of knots and new gadgets jostling for attention, mobile television appears to have taken a back seat yet again. Uptake has not been at the level predicted either in the US or here in the UK, but continues to be a major force in Korea and also Japan, where currently 80% of all handsets have mobile tv built-in. There are of course a number of reasons why the future of mobile TV is still looking shaky. From ongoing issues around connectivity and network capacity through to delivery of suitable content as well as how to successfully monetize whether through advertising revenues, direct sales or a combination of both. Until all these issues are successfully addressed, viewers will stick to what they know best – the big screen TV – and other developing platforms like Internet TV will continue to steal the limelight. Last year the big three providers, Orange, O2 and Vodafone joined together to launch the pilot service ‘Integrated Mobile Broadcast’ which is currently being tested. The idea being to run a multi-operated, shared network service delivering broadcast TV and on demand video over 3G. This collaboration will simplify existing technology without a pricey network upgrade and reduce costs for the user. What also makes this partnership unique is the addition of Ericsson who will provide the Content Delivery System, and a number of broadcasters, including the BBC, who will provide the content.
The debate still continues as to whether content should be paid for or broadcast for free. If a user wants to watch ‘live’ streamed TV there is currently no incentive for them to pay to watch on their phones when it’s already available at home. With the release of Internet TV viewers will also have access to on-demand players on their home television as well as laptops and PCs. Again, where is the incentive to view on a mobile when there are already options to view on a bigger screen? Technological issues aside, suitable content is the biggest hurdle to be overcome when it comes to adoption of mobile TV. There’s no denying that most mobile video viewing is undertaken in chunks, here and there, usually whilst commuting or travelling. It is a totally different experience from using any other device so requires content which can be presented in a different and unique way. It needs to be short, episodic and punchy. It’s no accident that YouTube is the most viewed site on mobile phones as it offers precisely this kind of material. Perhaps the operators and providers should consider offering content to users on an exclusive basis to encourage uptake. Clips and trails from upcoming TV series that haven’t yet aired. Or maybe short, episodic soap-style micro dramas delivered daily to encourage regular viewing. Of course this would mean producing content specifically for mobiles rather than reversioning existing material but this may be the necessary hook required to make the experience worthwhile for the user.