MobiTV Adds More Major Networks
By Eric Lin, Tue Jul 27 23:00:00 GMT 2004

MobiTV continues to aggressively add content to its video streaming service. The networks believe in it, why don't the carriers?


MobiTV has been busy this year. Initially the mobile video broadcaster started out with 13 channels. It has since been adding more content, including special live events like The US State of the Union address, baseball games, and now reports from the US political conventions. Today MobiTV announced three new channels, including content from NBC and Fox. This adds more big names to MobiTV's roster, but doesn't expand content that much since the deal does not include either network's popular dramas or sit-coms, concentrating on news and sports highlights instead.

MobiTV is having success signing on TV networks, however it is not having the same luck with wireless operators. Since its launch last year, it has not signed on any carriers other than Sprint, its original launch partner. Since MobiTV is a J2ME application, it does not require any special technology that is holding back other North American carriers (except those that use BREW) from launching the service. It is possible that MobiTV requires a faster data rate like that of CDMA 2000 1xRTT, however Cingular and ATT have EDGE which should be acceptable considering most of MobiTV's stream is low bandwidth audio -- video is sent as stills at only about one frame pre second.

The problem, then, would appear to be demand. Either subscribers don't think they want streaming video, or the carriers don't want it. Recent surveys have shown a distinct lack of consumer interest in mobile video when compared to other wireless services. However Sports have proven to be a strong driver for the adoption of advanced services like video. MobiTV's new partnerships may be missing popular TV shows, but they will provide it with more sports content. If MobiTV lines up the right sports properties, it could enhance its appeal to consumers and eventually to carriers. Even with the right content, it may be still difficult to convince users that an audio stream plus one frame per second of video is the same as TV. The carriers should require less convincing since mobile TV subscriptions also drive unlimited data subscriptions, so they could sign up subscribers for unlimited data plan and increase highly coveted data revenues.