In a press release, The Diffusion Group (TDG) announced its new report, “The Possibilities and Challenges for Mobile TV”. In the release, TDG states that mobile TV subscription services are forecast to double their subscriber base by 2013. This sounds exciting until you find out that this means increasing from 1.6 million this year to 3.3 million subscribers in 2013. That number pales in comparison to other services; for example, Comcast is estimated to have 23.5 million cable TV subscribers.
The press release indicates that demand for the service is lower than originally expected, partly because it is an additional fee on top of other subscription services. Also, few mobile phones are equipped to receive the over-the-air Mobile TV signals.
I agree that the cost may be part of the problem, but the real barrier to growth for these offerings is that users have good alternatives already. Most of the people who would be willing to pay for a mobile TV service already have smart phones with data plans. And this allows them to access streaming content from the Internet at no additional fee beyond their existing data plan. (And if they’re paying for the data plan, they may as well use it.)
TDG suggests that the solution may be to bundle Mobile TV service in with other subscription TV services such as cable or satellite. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Cable and satellite are already struggling to stop the bleeding of lost customers, and are working feverishly to make their own content available to subscribers over the Internet, through TV Everywhere initiatives.
Mobile TV is a cool idea that would have been a lot cooler 15 years ago. Unfortunately, in today’s crowded market of free, pay-as-you-go, and subscribtion services on the Internet, there really is not room — or need — for another entertainment distribution system.