How Successful Is Mobile TV In Malaysia?
By Mike Masnick, Fri Sep 17 22:30:00 GMT 2004

Reports are claiming success for mobile TV in Malaysia, though the details aren't entirely clear. Either way, it does offer some lessons for others trying to move TV to the mobile screen.

It seems like there are suddenly projects all over the world to offer live streaming TV to mobile phone screens, even as questions are raised about how successful such projects will be. The situation in Malaysia, where two different operators launched mobile TV offerings this year, may offer some valuable lessons.

While the companies involved are claiming the early results are a success, they are based entirely on internal projections -- meaning, they might have just set the bar very low. Also, the numbers aren't entirely clear. Maxis, who teamed with Astro, to launch a mobile TV offering early this year says 98,000 subscribers have signed up, which sounds good until the following sentence admits that only 10,000 users have signed up for "Video Live," which is the live TV offering. While the article does not fully explain this discrepancy, it sounds like the other 88,000 subscribers prefer pre-recorded content -- not nearly the same thing as the live television that so many operators are excited to promote. Even the executives involved with providing the live streaming service have admitted in the past that "perhaps not many" people are really interested in viewing live video clips on mobile phones, but they do believe there is a niche market for certain areas.

So, what positive lessons can be learned for all of these mobile TV projects? First, it looks like specific, short clips are much more appealing than live TV to most users. Most mobile TV viewers are on the go, and aren't really in a position to sit down and watch a half-hour program. Furthermore, since they're on the go and have distractions around them, live TV is less compelling than TiVo-style programs where the users can pause and rewind programs, in case they need to stop watching for a period of time.

Most important, however, may be pricing. The providers in Malaysia have made sure the offerings are cheap. The introductory price for the Maxis offering is RM 10 (~$2.60) per month, while competitor DiGi recently launched a competing mobile TV service for 14.90 (~$3.90) per month. There certainly is plenty of potential for video on mobile phones, but simply moving regular TV provides very little benefit. Creating content and services that fit the mobile user on the go, at a reasonable price, seems to have a lot more potential. In the end, the true question of how successful these projects are will be measured over time. It may be tempting for some to sign up for mobile TV offerings for the novelty of it, but if they discover that it's not useful, then substantial consumer churn will be noticeable.