We’ve heard from multiple sources that RIM (s RIMM) is planning to announce a full-episode television service for BlackBerry users as early as next week at CTIA.
Here’s what we’ve heard so far:
- It will be an unlimited monthly subscription service for a fee
- Once a user orders a program, the content will be downloaded in the background over Wi-Fi
- Multiple broadcast and cable networks have licensed content for the service
A spokesperson for RIM said it doesn’t comment on unannounced products or applications. However the timing seems right, considering the company is on the verge of launching BlackBerry App World, a competitor to iPhone (s AAPL) and Android (s goog) mobile application storefronts. While it might be a bit late to get into the content distribution game, RIM’s service has some advantages, including 19.5 percent of the world’s smartphone sales.
What we don’t know is if BlackBerry carriers are involved, though carriers usually don’t like handset makers going straight to consumers unless they’re helmed by a man named Steve Jobs. And consumers haven’t historically bought into handset content services either. Nokia’s (s NOK) attempt at a content portal, Ovi, could hardly be dubbed a raging success. But BlackBerry users, whose mobile addictions are borderline scary, might buck that trend.
By downloading content in the background over Wi-Fi, RIM would avoid clogging 3G networks. Downloaded programs would be ready to play when users want to watch them on the go. And once 3G networks finally get up to speed, customers may just want to upgrade.
By contrast, TV.com’s long-form shows iPhone app chops up episodes into clips and strings them together, with different versions of each clip encoded for 3G and Wi-Fi (the Wi-Fi quality is way better). The BlackBerry content experience would offer reliable, full-length, high-quality over-the-air (well, Wi-Fi) premium video downloads. So that’s an improvement over Apple’s system, which requires you to pay to download an individual episode onto your laptop, then transfer it to your iPhone. But this BlackBerry content service would be a little bit different from what you might think of as mobile video as you’d be using the phone because it’s convenient rather than because it’s connected to the network.
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