Mobile TV: It Will Be Successful, It Will Be Important

October 25, 2007

By Alan Reiter

You can analyze as many focus groups and create as many graphs and charts as you want, but much of the world will be watching mobile television — regardless of whether it’s even called by that name.

Mobile TV is one of the most controversial applications in the wireless world, and there are lots of naysayers castigating the concept and handwringers moaning about the problems.

Well, get over it.

It’s not only going to be successful, but it’s also going to be important to society.

We want it
Why will mobile TV be successful?

Major overarching concept: Human beings like to watch images that move and are accompanied by sound. We watch “moving pictures” to have fun, to learn, and also just to waste time.

But the bottom line is: We want to watch.

Preconceived notions
“But watching TV on my phone is a terrible experience,” you might say.

Were you the same person who said: “Why do I need a cordless phone at home? I have extension phones!”

Perhaps you said: “Why would I ever want a cellular phone? It’s too expensive, too big, and I don’t want to be reached all the time.”

Did you ever say: “Listen to music and wear headphones — in public? Are you crazy?”

It’s not a particularly good idea to bet against telecommunications progress and the ability of humans to change their preconceived notions when technology becomes good enough.

You want a bigger screen? A higher resolution screen? More RAM or a memory card? Faster streaming?

You got it. Phones that provide great — or, certainly, “good enough” — viewing experiences already exist. And more are on the way. And they will get cheaper.

You can bet on it.

Success vs. importance
Television networks and independent producers around the world are rushing to provide mobile TV fare — everything from full-length movies and programs to 30-second video clips.

Mobile TV likely will be successful because hundreds of millions of people will enjoy watching the typical execrable slop that’s available on “regular” cable and broadcast television.

Or, it will be successful because hundreds of millions of people will enjoy watching the typical execrable slop that’s available on YouTube Inc. and similar user-created video content.

And, of course, there are the people who enjoy watching sports. But the less said about that, the better.

But that’s not why it’s important.

So, why?
1) Mobile TV can provide live news of major events. People aren’t always in front of a TV or computer.

2) Mobile TV will help bring information to people around the world who might not have a computer or even a TV, but have a phone capable of viewing videos.

3) Mobile TV will expand to include “citizen broadcasters.” This is not about watching Diet Coke erupt when Mentos are dropped into it or watching a squirrel that water skis — not that these aren’t fun “user-generated content.”

Citizen broadcasters are ordinary people shooting videos of compelling and important events — whether they’re natural disasters or political crackdowns that affect hundreds of thousands of people or local activities that affect only a handful of people.

Worldwide ramifications
We’ve already seen the ramifications of the camera phone videos of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, the racist rant of comedian/actor Michael Richards, and, most recently, the Myanmar demonstrations. This is just the beginning of citizen broadcasting.

Call it mobile TV. Call it mobile video. Make up another name for the phenomenon. But about one billion people can take camera phone photos and a sizable percentage of those phones can shoot videos.

And camera phone video quality is getting significantly better.

Some camera phones can shoot video at 30 frames per second (fps). A few phones offer optical zoom. LG’s new five megapixel camera phone, the Viewty, can shoot videos at an amazing 120 fps.

Global wireless imaging revolution
Mobile TV is part of one of the most revolutionary technologies/applications I’ve seen in my 29 years of wireless analysis. It’s part of “wireless imaging” — the ability of a significant percentage of the human race to be able to document in photos and videos virtually anything that occurs around them and to quickly transmit those images across the street or around the world.

Wireless imaging is an international ecosystem that comprises everything from Fortune 500 (Fortune 5, actually) companies in the multibillion-dollar broadcasting and photography industries to the multibillion-dollar wireless communications industry to a lone individual with a modest camera phone shooting a grainy video that will rock the world.

Regardless of what it’s called, mobile TV will be successful, and it will make a difference in our lives.