The story of mobile TV has not always been a happy one. Five or six years ago, in those seemingly prehistoric app stores days, the industry was abuzz with news of planned deployments of dedicated mobile broadcast TV networks. The disparate standards – DVB-H, S-DMB, T-DMB, MediaFLO – jockeyed for position and media coverage in the newest of arenas.
Then along came the economic downturn (which meant that service providers couldn’t afford to invest in the dedicated networks) and apps supporting WiFi (which meant they didn’t really need to), and thus the dedicated network model rather went to the wall.
However, since that time various other incarnations of mobile TV have trained on rather well, and the industry as a whole has been given a fairly significant fillip by the emergence of a consumer tablet market. For while watching mobile TV on a smartphone is an acceptable experience, it is – quite honestly – difficult to immerse yourself in the experience with a three inch screen. (And if you’re watching a sporting event, following the ball can be a challenge.) But with tablets, it’s – well, a different ball game: not only do tablets provide a far superior browsing experience than smartphones, but they’re far better for watching the English cricket team remorselessly and inevitably grinding down the opposition. (I have not been able to say that very often over the past few decades, and boy, does it feel good now.)
While few mobile TV service providers give out information on the precise split between smartphone and tablet users, they acknowledge the impetus that tablets have provided. Thus, we see that the Canadian network operator Bell now has 300,000 mobile TV subscribers
(which accounts for over 4% of its combined tablet and mobile handset user base); that in Spain during the first three months of the year, the number of mobile TV subscribers rose by 28% q-o-q to more than 600,000
. At the same time, a host of applications are being launched designed to facilitate access to mobile TV via tablets – intriguingly, a number of tablets offered on the Indian market by Reliance are highlighting this function
within their marketing material.
It is also worth pointing out that those consumers who subscribe to a dedicated mobile TV service in one sense represent only the tip of the iceberg: a far greater number of users snack on mobile video across social networks, across news sites, across a whole plethora of specialist interest areas.
The delivery of and access to mobile TV may not necessarily be that envisaged several years ago, but it is certainly thriving.