A couple of weeks ago I blogged on the state of mobile TV: specifically about the fact that, while the means of delivery and access might be somewhat different to that envisaged by the adherents of dedicated mobile broadcast TV several years ago, then it is nevertheless beginning to develop substantive audiences. Yesterday came the news that the granddaddy of them all, MobiTV, has filed for an initial public offering. Now MobiTV has been around since TU Media was a twinkle in SK Telecom’s eye; it has witnessed the birth and (and in many cases death) of numerous streamed and broadcast services (farewell, BT Movio; auf wiedersehen, Watcha). It is also fair to say that – as with so many other providers of rich media services – what provided mobile TV in general, and MobiTV in particular, with a lifeline was the emergence of the consumer smartphone market allied to the concomitant growth in home routers: by easing the strain on the 3G networks, WiFi – not the dedicated broadcast networks – proved mobile TV’s saviour. MobiTV’s business model has been to partner primarily with US network operators, who then offer MobiTV’s content on their respective portals: the company’s prospectus
noted that three operators (Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile) accounted for 91% of its revenues in the first half of 2011. The challenge facing MobiTV may be intrinsically linked to that of its partners: in an era where OS app stores are pre-eminent, how can TV services accessed via the operator portal gain traction? One way is for the MNOs to offer mobile TV is part of a high value bundle, but for the consumer to subscribe to such a bundle, he or she will presumably want to have tried out the service beforehand: and with less and less consumers spending their time on the portal when there’s the big wide mobile Internet to explore instead, then on-portal discoverability becomes a key issue. The portal is not, fortunately, the only point of discovery: MobiTV has been adept in keeping its product in the public eye by offering its applications on the App Store. Particularly key in this regard have been apps – paid for as one-off downloads - which simply provided coverage of a sporting event over a limited timeframe: if the consumer enjoyed the experience, he or she could subsequently download a subscription-based app offering the full MobiTV package. Essentially, the key to optimising the chance of success lies in providing the end user with multiple means of discovery (portal, app, D2C) allied to multiple choices of payment mechanism: thus, a pay-per-view ingredient – as well as subscription – is essential to generate revenues from casual, occasional viewers. Indeed, with the growth of the consumer tablet market, offering pay-per-view should really be at the heart of all service provider strategies. And, of course, providing content that people will pay to watch.