Moons and Parrots - Mobile meets the World Cup

POSTED BY Global Administrator
A number of us – predominantly, but by no means exclusively, the chaps amongst us – have spent a goodish part of the past month content in the knowledge that pretty much any time we switch on the TV, there will be twenty two men in brightly coloured shirts attempting to hoof a ball into one of two nets, or – failing that – there will be a panel of men in slightly more sober shirts endlessly discussing  whether or not it was a penalty and what on earth was Robert Green playing at when he let that goal in. And some of us have been watching on screens above and beyond those in our lounges, our bedrooms, our kitchens and our local pubs. Online viewings are up; so – most pertinently from the perspective of this blog – are mobile viewings. This is particularly true in the US which, it is fair to say, is not necessarily best known for being a hotbed of football fanaticism. MobiTV has confirmed that, prior to the semifinals of the World Cup, it had streamed more than 88 million minutes of World Cup coverage, which – allowing for injury time, the half time break, and the occasional outbreak of extra time and penalties -  still equates to well over 700,000 individual game viewings by my reckoning. The World Cup presented a gilt-edged opportunity for mobile TV providers to demonstrate the efficacy of their services, and with 88 million minutes on the clock thus far, MobiTV would appear to have reinforced its position as the leading provider of paid mobile TV services in the world. Unhappily, I have a sneaking suspicion that not every service provider has grasped the opportunity with the same sense of purpose (and technological/marketing nous) that MobiTV did. Let me elaborate. I have been writing about the mobile TV industry for more than five years now, about the players, the handsets, the networks; have played around with numerous applications at numerous shows; have watched DVB-H grow from – OK, forgot that one. But that’s the business side of things, the stuff I do for a living. But, when it comes to the Windsor-is-relaxing-and-wants-to-see-what’s-on-the-telly aspect of my life, it’s fair to say that mobile TV and I have a bit of history. Not the fond reminiscing, shot in soft focus through rose tinted lenses kind of history. More the grim flashbacks kind of history, in which a mobile phone has several times come perilously close to ending its days in numerous pieces. The flashback I usually trot out to journalists, psychiatrists and indeed anyone who feigns an interest or simply can’t get away involves an England/Israel football match a few years ago. For some reason – Heaven knows why – I genuinely wanted to watch this game. It was, my mobile phone assured me, available to stream live. And so, for around three minutes, I endured a haze of disintegrating graphics in which vaguely discernable stick-like creatures flashed around on a two inch screen, accompanied by a wall of static through which the odd word of commentary could occasionally be heard. That was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back; the moment that mobile TV and I began our trial separation: it simply wasn’t working for me, and besides, there was a lovely flatscreen TV waiting at home for me with the second half. Time passed. The App Store arrived. And (business head on again) the TV streaming experience at the shows, on other people’s iPhones, was looking better. Last night, I succumbed. Stuck at Cosham station, a location for which the adjective “depressing” might well have been coined, I remembered that the semi-final between Spain and Germany had kicked off. I stared at the phone, sighed and logged on to the BBC web site. Clicked on to the landing page that recommended that I either watch via WiFi or else ensure that I have an unlimited data package (what’s one of those these days?). And clicked on “Play stream”. Not found. Back to landing page. Click on “Play stream”. Not found. This process was repeated a number of times, each time the attendant expletives rising in volume, quantity and extent to which they would cause your maiden aunt to blush. Here, you see, is a rather fundamental hurdle: to be able to judge the quality of a mobile TV service, you first need to be able to access it. And if, my dear little N95, you can find it, then I certainly can’t – at least until I’m reunited with the flatscreen. In the interim, I settled for the text update commentary instead. It is impossible to generalize from one irritable analyst’s experience; it may be that other football lovers across Britain and continental Europe, bored at other train stations almost as unlovely as Cosham, may have accessed the live streams without incident. And yet, I doubt it. In the minds of those who failed in their quests for streamed footie via the mobile it will have placed huge doubts over whether they choose to access mobile TV again: to put it into the vernacular, the service providers will have missed a sitter; done a Robert Green. There is certainly enormous potential in the streamed TV market. It has been bolstered by apps which enable use both via 3G and WiFi: indeed, we believe that revenues from mobile TV users should reach $7 billion by 2015. Provided, that is, those users can access the services. Still, hats off to MobiTV. The boys, er, done great. (By the way, did I ever tell you about how I won the Sidewinder World Cup in 2002 by correctly predicting the scores in more World Cup matches than anyone else? I won a nice shiny metal trophy which sits on my wardrobe and... Hello? Are you still there?)