Doubts about viability of mobile TV

According to a recent iReach survey in Ireland, only 8% of mobile phone customers are willing to pay for mobile TV. Ouch. Even more telling, only 17% of 3G users would be willing to pay for mobile TV. 3G users are the folks who’ve already shelled out a few extra bucks a month for a fancy phone with multimedia and data services.

Oh, but that’s not the punch line. After breaking the disappointing news to the Irish carriers, iReach took the gold in chutzpah.

IReach suggests that mobile operators need to continue and to improve their support of the rollout of more sophisticated handsets or they risk slowing down the takeoff of data-rich mobile services such as mobile TV.

According to iReach, the main inhibitors to adoption of most multimedia services are lack of interest and perceptions of high prices. “Mobile TV is no different. Mobile operators will face challenges such as educating consumers about Mobile TV, convincing users of basic mobile services of a phone’s utility beyond voice and SMS.

Let me get this straight. There’s a lack of interest. Consumers don’t think these services are worth the money. Yet it’s imperative that carriers rollout more sophisticated handsets. Wonder who iReach works for?

Back at the homefront, Sound Partners Research released its report on the future of mobile TV in the US.

As consumer demand for mobile TV and radio increases and broadcasting services begin to emerge during 2006, there will be strong competitive pressures on mobile operators to respond. However, according to report co-author, Dr Alastair Brydon, “There is a strong chance that mobile users will not spend a substantial amount on mobile TV and radio services, and this will be shared by video-on-demand and broadcasting services”.

Call me a stick in the mud, but demand without a willingness to pay isn’t really demand. It’s bad data analysis. I can see how the survey went.

Q: Would you like TV on your mobile phone?
A: I guess so.
Q: How much would you pay for it?
A: What are you smoking? I already pay $100 a month for cable. Why would I pay for the same stuff again?

That’s the issue. No one’s proposing compelling content for the handset. Think YouTube. User generated content. That’s what people will want. Darn… all that investment in DVB-H and FLO… Nah, we’ll just keep pushing E! on V Cast.

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