It’s all been rather quiet on the mobile TV front in Europe recently, so it’s good to see that Norway, not content with having a runaway success with a teen idol violinist in the annual bloc voting exercise that is the Eurovision Song Contest, has doubled up by becoming the first European country this year to launch a mobile TV service, and a DMB service at that.
MiniTV – a joint venture between Norwegian broadcasters NRK, TV 2 and Modern Times Group (MTG) – currently offers six TV channels, free of charge, to those subscribers in the Greater Oslo area with a DMB-enabled handset or multimedia player. The plan is then to roll out additional, interactive services – including VOD and traffic information – by the end of 2009; pay TV channels are expected to be available in the medium term.
While this activity is a welcome boost for mobile TV – contrast this with the situation in France where plans to deploy a dedicated network have stalled yet again – one wonders whether the service will generate significant revenues, even in the longer term.
First of all, potential subscriber base. Norway has around five million mobile subscribers. Maybe twenty or so of these currently have handsets capable of receiving DMB signals, and these are the journalists and broadcasters who were given them at the launch party. For the rest of the population to access this service, they will be obliged to buy a compatible handset (there are not many of them out there at the moment) or a receiver: I would therefore venture to suggest that only a small minority of handset churn in Norway will be accounted for by T-DMB-enabled devices, and that thus it will take several years before a penetration rate of even five per cent is achieved.
Secondly, only a minority – a small minority – of these are likely to subscribe to the pay TV channels. T-DMB has advantages – its specifications are particularly suited to Norway’s topography – but channel capacity is markedly lower than those of some of its rivals. In short, only a limited number of pay TV channels are likely to be available.
That said, and having spent the past two paragraphs being a killjoy and raining on Norway’s parade, there are precedents for widespread adoption – provided, that is, you get the handset vendors on board, which would be no mean feat. They managed it in Japan – most handsets sold now have one-seg capabilities. The problem for Norway is that most handset vendors have yet to be convinced that T-DMB is a horse worth backing.
Unlike Eurovision, the jury’s still out on this one...