Mobile TV's Real Killer App

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by: Gary Hayes

Will watching TV on your mobile itself be the killer app or is something else beyond that be more likely to fly. Firstly lets tackle the question of will there be a significant mobile TV audience. According to this report by IMS research nearly half a billion people will be watching TV on their mobile phone!

IMS Research forecasts that by the end of 2011, nearly half a billion people will be watching TV on their cellular handsets. Driven primarily by the adoption of broadcast-based services such as DVB-H, mobile digital TV will experience 50% year-on-year growth through 2010. Based on a recent study from IMS Research entitled Mobile TV "A Complete Analysis of the Global Market " 2006 Edition, mobile TV delivered over the cellular data network should experience strong growth and build on its early lead in the marketplace. However beginning early in 2010, cellular network-based mobile TV subscriptions will be overtaken by even quicker growth in digital broadcast services. By then, more than half of the world’s mobile TV subscribers will receive their video via a mobile digital broadcast service.

Now there’s a prediction worth hanging around for. Although the early research from Nokia, Ericsson, BT and others has been pretty positive I believe that watching ‘live’ or ‘on-demand’ video services actually on your mobile will not be main way people use these devices. I think it is much more to do with what we used to call in TV-Anytime forum – the mPDR – the mobile personal digital recorder (see our Business Models Group, which I used to chair, diagram below circa 2000 for how it fits into the grand scheme). So, although in heavy commuting areas and a few other particular situations watching content on that small screen is attractive to many, to me it is more about ‘content accessibility’ aka “easy ways to show stuff to people”. We will never be shuttling our TiVo (or whatever will be the brand icon for PVR’s in 2011) around between family houses, business to business or sharing between devices. We are far more likely to be using a portable device that can be synchronised with our home entertainment centre – much the same way we do with music on the iPod and computer.

As an aside – a little more clarification of the above diagram. The mPDR is what you carry around with you stuffed with content. The NDR is the Network Digital Recorder (where you have your personal and commercial content on network services – just like YouTube and Flickr, we were way ahead of that game!). The mUser interface is interesting in that we reckoned there would also be a need for a thin control interface, a wireless device with ‘no’ storage that for certain user needs just pulled content from all your storage areas (the documentation from 2000 talks about Slingbox type applications – so nothing new under the sun then!) and more importantly controlled capture on other devices. End of clarification.

In 2011 I would imagine the basic storage on mobile phones (which will effectively be video iPods with a communication channel and TV receiver) will be between 60-300GB – seriously, the 8GB phones are already out. Just think of how many MP4 standard def pieces of video you could get on that – I would suggest for starters most peoples complete DVD collection and latest 30 family movie events. I already have around 20 full feature films (OK at vhs quality) on my video iPod and my pattern of usage seems to be echoed by many I meet. (I blogged about this in Genius of the market, entertainment everywhere when I asked Google Video Europes head Patrick Walker, about it in Milia). That usage seems to be thus. You have connected home systems using wired, high bandwidth pipes collecting content. You synchronise your smaller gadgets to this, filtering just the ’stuff’ you need to carry around with you. Simple. Traditional 3G networks are never going to deliver the amount of content people will want to carry around and until WiMax is widespread basic broadband wireless has its limitations for delivery – but with DVB-H (or other mobile broadcast format) we have what could become the best way to deliver large amounts of content to the largest numbers of people – complete with some watertight business models. Unlike the world of ad-skipping on PVR each connected handset could have a built in authentication system over the 3G loop, meaning if you want the latest film captured in real time to your device overnight then a pay to capture can exist. As well as capturing content in real time from a shared range of channels, there is the potential to order more long-tail niche content to be thrown into off-peak, overnight schedules for more personalized capture. But will leave the biz mods for now.

Here we have a world where each individual (in the developed world at least) have a large amount of portable storage in a converged phone come TV receiving device. They capture from the airwaves, they capture from their broadband pipes in the home and they have access to live streams whenever there is something worth watching, live. There is a standardisation and these devices dock to most of the larger screens in peoples home – interoperability is also key to this. The world of ‘can I show you this’ or ‘I have a great film on my phone we can watch’ does not mean huddling around a 3 inch display but sitting back as individuals connect their devices to what used to be called TV displays. Now I could go on about all the wonderful personalization and localization opportunities afforded in this world – but will leave that to later.

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