The mobile-video hype machine switched on again this week with the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual trade show in Las Vegas, where the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) is once again pushing its mobile DTV effort. The group, which consists of 900 stations throughout the country, said 73 stations in 33 markets are now transmitting mobile DTV signals for on-the-go users, and many more deployments are slated for the next year.
Those kinds of claims may spark a sense of déjà vu in those who watched several players rush to build out nationwide mobile video networks a few years ago, only to see them all fail. But mobile DTV backers claim their technology’s low overhead is the differentiator: Deployments require only a transmitter affixed to an existing tower, according to the OMVC, and can be launched by TV stations for a one-time fee of less than $100,000 or annual payments of roughly $10,000.
Costs notwithstanding, though, there’s precious little evidence that users actually want to watch traditional TV broadcasts on their phones; there’s even less evidence that they’ll pay for it. But rather than trying to resurrect the Sony Watchman, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham puts it, those trying to monetize mobile video need to address some key challenges:
1) Mobile-optimized content and services. That doesn’t just mean repurposing video for the smaller screens of mobile phones, it also means on-demand functionality in addition to content that is programmed at specific times like traditional TV. MobiTV, for instance, has gained an impressive following by coupling on-demand content with live TV and optimizing it for mobile use. (It’s worth noting, though, that while MobiTV claims more than 10 million subscribers, the company has yet to discuss its finances and has taken in a staggering $100 million in funding.)
2) Bigger and better devices. Consumers are increasingly interested in larger phones with big, bright screens of four inches or more that deliver a far-superior viewing experience than smaller handsets. And the emerging tablet market is already stoking our appetite for mobile video, according to Cisco, which recently reported global mobile data traffic increased by a factor of 2.6 last year.
3) Advertising dollars. Consumers have historically been loath to pay extra for mobile video, so the key in creating viable business models will be in generating advertising revenues. And for those ads to be truly lucrative, they will have to be highly targeted based on location, time and the type of content being viewed, among other factors.
For more thoughts on how mobile video could finally get legs, please see my weekly column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).
Image source: Flickr user Kojach.