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Do We Really Need More Mobile TV?

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The Financial Times suspects that DISH Network is building a mobile television service thanks to its relationship with Frontier Wireless, the winner of a $712 million hunk of spectrum offered in the recent 700 MHz auction. Frontier walked away with nationwide licenses to the E block of spectrum, which is good for one-way service. It’s something Om had prophesied, but does it really make sense?

Crown Castle tried to do this a few years ago with its Modeo service, which was unceremoniously shuttered in July 2007 after Qualcomm’s MediaFLO digital television won the deal to provide service to Verizon Wireless and AT&T. After losing out on those carriers in the United States, I suppose the Modeo guys, faced with the costs of building out a network, wondered why they should bother. Since then, AT&T and Verizon have only gotten bigger as their subscriber numbers have grown.

It is possible, judging from the anemic numbers associated with MediaFLO and the overdue MediaFLO service from AT&T, which was supposed to launch last year, that DISH sees an opportunity. I’m still not sure I do. Mobile TV isn’t exactly soaring in the U.S.

13 Responses to “Do We Really Need More Mobile TV?”

  1. Mobile TV would catch on more I think if we as individuals drove less, and used some form of public transportation more. Perhaps mobile TV will catch on more on the East coast because of the commuter trains/subways.

  2. @Chris,

    The comparison is fair indeed given the adoption and use of the Watchman by asian consumers, and today’s adoption and use of mobile tv by asian consumers. How could you not make this comparison, especially when asian mobile tv adoption is typically the investment benchmark for US mobile tv?

    The mobile tv market that you’re referencing, one which parallels broadcast television is the same market that Sling Media pursues. The Sling Box replicates broadcast television exactly, however Sling Media has had modest success at best.

    The correct consumer consumption model for entertainment is one that integrates all entertainment media consumed per day, regardless of entertainment format. This said, mobile tv does not provide any advantage over broadcast television on a large flat screen television. Nor does mobile tv provide any “shared experience” value unlike broadcast television, social networking, video gaming, etc. Hence, mobile tv is an individual and isolated experience. Mobile tv is niche at best, or at least until their is a sea change in consumer behavior towards individualism, which of course could happen. Don’t bet on it. ;-)

  3. @Curtis

    The last Watchman came out in 1990. I hardly think it’s fair to compare consumers of the 80’s with those of today.

    Second, there is most certainly a market here, it’s just a question of delivering a service that fits consumers’ needs in terms of price and quality. Why is there a market? Because people have periods everyday when they are not near a TV, but would watch one if they had access to it.

    In this sense, I think replicating broadcast TV on the phone is key to jump starting this business. Putting users in the mindset that the programming is the same on the same time schedule will remove a significant marketing burden for this service.

  4. Stacey,

    I happen to think that you have the right opinion on this market opportunity, at least here in the US. What’s of particular interest, is Sony’s failure marketing its’ Watchman TV handhelds back in the early 90’s. The Watchman was a huge failure here despite being a runaway success throughout Asia. I think American’s are accustomed to super sized TV viewing and therefore prefer it. The current market for mobile TV runs in stark contrast to the successful and growing market for large flat screen televisions.

    I don’t believe mobile TV will grow beyond a small niche market here in the US.