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MWC: Mobile Video Isn’t All That

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This week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona hasn’t just been about battling mobile operating systems and the latest chips for cell phones, it’s also about content. For the first time ever, the GSM Association threw a party at the event focused solely on mobile entertainment, “Mobile Backstage.”

While there have been big announcements such as Nielsen talking about tracking online video, and the launch of mobile ad networks such as MMcast, the content news at Mobile World Congress is still a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing (what? too literary?). Mobile video has taken off in a few places such as South Korea and Japan, but for the most part, press releases outnumber the viewers.

M:Metrics calculates the percentage of mobile TV viewers as 5.3 percent of the European subscriber base and 4.5 percent of the U.S. subscriber base, with most of that comprised of families sending video to one another. Less than 1 percent watched carrier broadcast TV, and less than 2 percent watched video via a browser in the U.S. and Europe. Even a pro-mobile TV release from CNN and Ericsson point out that 44 percent of people are poised to use mobile TV, begging the question of how many people don’t care or already have it. Of those that do have it, a scant 24 percent tune in daily.

Standards wars in the U.S. and Europe have stymied efforts to deliver broadcast TV over mobile phones, as have the reluctance of carriers to open up their networks to such high-bandwidth traffic. Notably, however, Orange and T-Mobile said Tuesday that they plan to deploy a mobile video service, even after BT and Virgin Mobile’s efforts a year earlier had failed.

In the U.S., Qualcomm’s MediaFlo standard has pulled ahead of a rival DVB-H standard pushed by Modeo, but the service has so far only launched on a few Verizon handsets. Without a ton of handsets able to receive the signals, Verizon can’t widely market the service. But without a lot of demand, Verizon can’t really push for more MediaFlo-enabled handsets. AT&T is the only other carrier trying to sell a TV service right now, but its MedioFlo deployment, expected late last year, has stalled.

And let’s face it, watching mobile TV through a browser isn’t so hot, either. Sites such as YouTube Mobile can be watched on any phone that can access the Internet, but are limited in their content. Other players include startups like Treemo and TinyTube, as well as mywaves, which was declared the best mobile video service at the Mobile World Congress, beating out MTV and Sony Pictures.

16 Responses to “MWC: Mobile Video Isn’t All That”

  1. Few people have adopted mass market mobile video services due to a well know list of complaints such as programming issues (running content from a different medium as mobile content), bandwidth, size of the screens, clarity of content and cost structure.

    These are constraints that cause a negative user perception & user experience that people trying to watch the news, sporting events, etc. are unwilling to accept. You might watch a particular service once for the sake of fun, technology or boredom and you might forgot to unsubscribe for a month or two but that’s about it.

    There is one medium however in which all of these negatives are ignored and users will not only pay a premium price for the service but will also forgive (or forget to notice) all of the above issues — that’s adult oriented programming.

    How many guys will watch a scrambled cable signal looking for a little flesh to appear in the pixilated mist? Lots — and many more will purchase as well because female anatomy is interesting to the male population regardless of size, cost or framerate. Yet we can not speak it’s name for fear that the neighbor will know — when in fact he might just know of a better site you can go visit.

    You can spent a lifetime arguing about technology and chips when the bottom line is always just the simple fact that content is king and if your content is good enough, then you have already crossed the chasm and are sitting on the other side at the pool with a little umbrella in your drink.

    Rock On!
    Mo Shizzle, CE-Oh!