Mobile TV services in India represent a major opportunity for the entire mobile TV ecosystem like broadcasters, wireless operators, equipment manufacturers and content providers. It presents broadcasters with an exciting opportunity to extend their brand into the mobile space by leveraging existing content assets and developing new mobile content. Advertisers have the potential to cater to a specific need of their target audience wherever they are, while operators can benefit from a complementary revenue stream. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) recommendations reiterate the potential of mobile TV in the country.
Commercial and pilot mobile TV services have been deployed in numerous countries around the world, including the US where Verizon Wireless rolled out its V CAST Mobile TV service last year and then expanded the service to more than 50 Markets.
Closer home, commercial mobile TV services are already available in the Philippines and Indonesia, among other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, Portio, a UK-based research firm, expects Asia-Pacific to account for about 50% of the world’s mobile TV subscriber base by 2011. It already hosts the world’s two biggest mobile Markets in China and India.
Trials with Australian consumers in recent years have confirmed that there is strong nascent demand for mobile TV services. 80% of participants expressed an interest in subscribing to a commercial mobile TV service during a Sydney-based trial of 16 television services to mobile handsets in 2005. Trials in Taiwan and Japan in 2007 have shown that for mobile TV customers, great picture quality, fast channel switching and an electronic programme guide (EPG) were among the most important features. In India, mobile TV could be the next killer service with the media and entertainment business in the country expected to double by 2011, to reach Rs 1 trillion, or $22.5 billion, in sales.
Internationally, major Sports events have been found to be significant drivers for mobile TV uptake. This will be a factor in its continued adoption over the next couple of years, leading up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
Mobile TV is an industry catalyst, fostering the development and collaboration of an expanding ecosystem. It includes multi-channel broadcasters, operators, content developers and technology vendors. Mobile TV services provide broadcasters with a new distribution channel for existing shows or made-for-mobile content. Some of the most successful broadcasters that have established licensing agreements for mobile TV services in the US include CBS, ESPN, FOX, MTV Networks and NBC Universal. Today, subscribers can watch their favourite selection of live, simulcast and time-shifted full-length television programming on select handsets. LG, Motorola and Samsung are some of the manufacturers that offer handsets optimised for mobile TV.
It is important to distinguish mobile TV from the video download services that are available in India today, via the 2.5G and 3G wireless data networks. A true mobile TV experience is delivered over a dedicated mobile broadcast network, which aggregates programming and prepares it for transmission to specially equipped handsets. 2.5G or 3G telephony is configured for one-to-one network connectivity; it can stream live content to mobile handsets, but the quality of the broadcast will deteriorate as the number of viewers increase.
By establishing a dedicated mobile broadcast network for mobile TV, operators can prevent any degradation to existing voice and data services. A dedicated mobile broadcast network allows content providers to deliver a range of different channels and services, while maintaining a very high quality user experience. In other words, they can provide a compelling mobile viewing experience that mimics what consumers have become accustomed to after more than 70 years of conventional television.
Mobile TV represents a good fit with the technology-savvy and highly mobile consumer demographic worldwide. Studies have found that these users are very comfortable watching TV and entertainment on their mobile phone or handheld devices. In 2007, worldwide mobile telephone subscriptions reached 3.3 billion—equivalent to half the global population. If we follow these trends it’s almost inevitable that the mobile phone will become the ‘TV of the future’.
Market research firm Screen Digest predicts that the global mobile TV market will be worth over 4.4 billion in 2011 in Asia, North America and Western Europe combined. Subscription business models will dominate, generating more than 90% of revenues in 2011. The most impressive growth will be experienced in North America where the broadcast mobile TV market is set to grow by 350% between 2008 and 2010.
For mobile TV to succeed in India, there are a number of issues that need to be ironed out from a regulatory standpoint. The adoption of a technology-neutral stance and the opening up of terrestrial broadcast spectrum to multiple players would create a level playing field, which is the ideal working environment for all mobile TV value chain members.
Content developers, broadcasters, mobile operators and technology vendors have a critical role to play in establishing a viable proposition for mobile TV and related services. These seemingly disparate stakeholders will need to come together to create new partnerships and offerings, which is why the issue of mobile TV in India needs to be on the agenda for regulatory bodies, handset manufacturers, broadcasters, wireless operators and content providers.
—May Oh The author is senior director of business development for Greater China and India, Qualcomm MediaFLO Technologies