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The business benefits of switching to mobile TV
Over the past two years, the mobile TV landscape has changed dramatically. Even by mid-2008, there were serious reservations as to whether dedicated mobile broadcast TV networks could ever generate sufficient revenues to be run at a profit, even in the longer term; and the efforts of the then EU Commissioner Viviane Reding to persuade mobile network operators to deploy networks based on the DVB-H standard largely fell on deaf ears. In the aftermath of the global economic downturn, these reservations crystallised in most cases into an outright rejection of the dedicated broadcast network. By the end of 2009 - more than four and a half years after the first service was launched – just 3.2 million users worldwide were paying for mobile TV services delivered via dedicated mobile broadcast TV networks: well under 0.1% of the global subscriber base. Even in the two markets where mobile broadcast TV pay services are relatively well established (South Korea and Italy, launching in May 2005 and June 2006 respectively) penetration is just 2.0% and 1.4% respectively. Even though MediaFLO achieved carriage deals with Verizon and AT&T, the two largest networks in the US, its subscriber base stood at no more than 200,000 at the end of 2009. Furthermore, this global pay TV base is barely sufficient to sustain a single medium-sized national network. Given these factors, given the comparative failures of those pay ventures, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that pay TV services delivered over dedicated networks are unlikely to generate substantial revenues in the future; that few such networks will be commissioned and deployed in the future; that those networks which are in active service will increasingly struggle in the face of competing technologies. Where mobile broadcast TV has taken off, it is largely the result either of digital terrestrial networks configured at no extra cost to enable free-to-air mobile reception of signals (e.g. ISDB-T in Japan) or with handsets fitted with chipsets which can receive free-to-air analogue TV signals (e.g. in parts of Asia and Africa). However, while they will not in themselves provide any additional service revenues, this is not to say that they do not provide the opportunity for vendors, operators and service providers to generate additional revenues, ranging from the perceived enhanced value of a handset that is in some way mobile TV-enabled, to associated, paid-for value-added interactive services.