My Two Cents: Cell Phones Good for TV, Not Communications

“The cellular subscriber you’re trying to call cannot be reached.” OK. I’ll try later, I say to myself.

“Hello?, Hello? This is David.” David can you hear me? “Hello? Hello?” Nothing. He cannot hear me. Bad connection, I’ll try later.

“Who’s this?” David it’s me, Dom. Can you hear me now?

“Yeah! but I’m in the car and soon going though a tunnel. We might lose the connection.” OK. I just want to tell you about the incredible number of fourth screen seminars that were held at the recent MIP-TV. There were companies buying cellular rights everywhere . . . David, are you there? David? I lost him. He’s probably in the tunnel.

“Yes? This is David. I lost you before, under the tunnel. I’ll soon be going over a bridge and I might lose you again. You know, because of security reasons, the cellular won’t work. So what were you saying about television on cellular phones?”
If you though that NATPE was saturated with mobile TV, you should have seen MIP! Cellular television was everywhere. It was a frenzy! I even went around looking at the many demonstration from vendors. One of them... David?, David? I lost him again.

“Dom, I’m back. What did you say about MIP?” I said that cellular television was everywhere. It was a frenzy! One service was offering 18 cellular TV channels: From ABC News to Toon World. And the images were clear, the movement rather... “Dom, are you there? I lost you!” David, I can hear you! Can you hear me? “Dom, Dom!” OK. I’ll call him again; let’s hope for a better connection.

David? Darn . . . the line now has interferences. Let’s try again.

David? “Yes, Dom?” You know what? Once you go back to your office, can you call me back on a fixed line, I’d like to go over this cellular TV explosion for a possible article in VideoAge.

“OK, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Hi!, Dom. This is David. So you want me to write about mobile video technology and the great business opportunities it offers?”
I was going to, but I changed my mind after talking to you on the cellular.

I’m now convinced that the Telcos [telephone companies] are not yet ready for the mobile-TV services; that they are rushing into them with great risks of both alienating their potential clients and creating destructive consequences for content providers.

“But, Dom, the mobile phone companies are desperately seeking ways to generate new sources of revenue from those expensive high-speed [broadband] 3G [third generation] networks they’re building.”
So, instead of improving the basic reliability of their voice phone system, they’re touting mobile TV right? Look, David, producers and distributors are eagerly licensing their content because the money is there, but they are being shortsighted. If the customers will not be able to get a decent connection, they will refute the whole thing en block and the industry will lose a good source of income for a long time. Just look at what happened during the dot.com rush. And, it’s not just me thinking this way. Last February, the Newton, Massachusetts-based research firm, Strategy Analytics (www.strategyanalytics.net) put out a report entitled “Mobile TV: Hype not Justified by Demand.”

According to Strategy Analytics: “The momentum that has been rapidly built behind mobile broadcasting is unfounded.” According to Phil Taylor, director, Strategy Analytics Global Wireless Practice: “Operators have the perfect opportunity in 3G to see if mobile video services will fly, without further extending themselves into the provision of broadcast services. David Kerr, vice president, Strategy Analytics Global Wireless Practice, added, “Mobile TV faces four key challenges: The technology roadmap is far from stable; regulation and low spectrum availability may also act to slow the spread of services; beyond the technophile segment there is slow diffusion of media-enabled devices; and uncertain revenue models and value chain reconciliation will deter content industry participation.”

So, there you have it: A clear message without the static and lost connections of cellular telephony. For the sake of all concerned, it’s better to wait until Telcos have better technology on the market. By withholding programs, the content providers will be pressuring Telcos to quickly improve their cellular technology, so everyone involved can make this into a rewarding opportunity for the long run, rather than an ill-fated cash cow.

Dom Serafini