Seven million up for MobiTV as FLO goes nationwide
At a time when mobile TV in Europe is undergoing what might euphemistically be described as a period of retrenchment (with the honourable exception of activities in Norway) it is rather gratifying to see that services across the Atlantic appear to be faring rather better.
Streamed mobile TV package provider MobiTV has announced that it has passed the seven million subscriber mark, with two million of these customers added in the past six months alone. Given that this growth has occurred overwhelmingly within the US, at a time when discretionary spend levels have come under severe pressure, this is a high encouraging omen for mobile TV within that market, whether streamed or otherwise.
The surge is in large part attributable to MobiTV’s development and deployment of an iPhone application. March Madness, which offered on-demand access to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, rapidly became a best seller on the App Store.
Clearly, such “tournament pass” applications, which provide previews, post-match analaysis and exhaustive statistics databases as well as live coverage of the games, are key to increasing consumer interest in mobile TV. In an age where the PVR is becoming ever more popular, consumers understandably want to watch sporting events live, and when the TV set in the household or the public bar is unavailable, then mobile can offer a viable alternative.
Provided, that is, outstanding technical issues can be overcome. The rather prosaic, but still alarmingly prevalent, issue of network coverage can still cast a dampener here, particularly if (as seems a reasonable proposition) you’re a consumer who can’t watch the game because you’re stuck on a train, on a bus or in the back of a car: I can’t comment on MobiTV reception in New York, Los Angeles or Texas, but I do know that my chances of watching an equivalent event on a train in Hampshire, UK would be, well, close to zero, largely because for most of my commute I can’t even get a signal to phone my partner, let alone access a stream of tonight’s England versus Andorra football match.
However, this is an issue which the operators need to address, not the service providers, and certainly MobiTV deserve to pop the corks on the odd bottle of Veuve Clicquot, Möet et Chandon or whatever takes their fancy.
Furthermore, this announcement is one which will have attracted the attention of Qualcomm, whose FLO TV service will roll out nationwide in the US at the end of this week. Nationwide deployment was temporarily postponed by the delay to the digital switchover, but following the farewell to analogue TV on Friday FLO will extend its reach into 39 new markets.
Sport already forms a key part of the FLO portfolio: last month the company announced a raft of live mobile simulcasts, including NBC’s coverage of the French Open and Wimbledon (tennis), the Stanley Cup Final (hockey), The US Open (golf) and the Kentucky Derby (horse-racing).
But not, strangely, England versus Andorra at football. Can’t work out how that one slipped through the net…