Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is Mobile TV the Next Frontier For Revenue Growth

When over the air TV was good enough, investors wondered if consumers would buy TV programming when it was already free to see. The answer was a resounding yes and cable has becoming a profitable business. With cable programming, the value was quickly felt, better signals, more niche offerings, and a higher volume of shows. Sirius and XM Satellite asked the very same question about free radio signals, and the answer today is mixed as Sirius is set to purchase XM. Other devices like ipods, cds, and back seat dvd players offer alternative entertainment options for the car.

The opportunity to reach video fanatics away from their couch, has value to people who need to stay connected to content. To me, the value of mobile video is in direct proportion to the immediacy of its information. Need to watch a live sporting event but have to car pool the kids, mobile tv keeps you connected to the action. Breaking news being delivered while sitting at a little league game, now you can be in 2 places at once. But missing 30 Rock, or any non-live show, I am not confident that it will be highly desired. Especially when these shows are easily recorded for later viewing or accessible via online from your pc. There is no rush to watch most TV shows at their linear airing date.

Still, the value of live sports and breaking news may be enough to lead people to purchase a video package on their phone. Per this article, "TV stations could earn an additional $2 billion annually within four years by sending their programming directly to millions of consumers toting mobile handheld devices, National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr said here Monday."

But what will the business model look like? Will it be through subscription, advertising, e-commerce through the phone, gaming? And even more important, will consumers buy programs from their local TV broadcast channel, or buy directly the show they need to watch. Will WNBC benefit or MLB; WABC or Disney/ESPN? Will consumers want to buy channels with 24/7 availability or on a PPV basis?

Should cable companies be worried? Can mobile channels lead consumers to replace one device for another? Today's younger generation no longer has a hard wired phone, using their cell phone exclusively as their "home" phone number. Could mobile technology allow signals to be moved directly into the living room, bypassing the hard wire connection of cable? How many times is the consumer willing to pay more than once for the same programming but on different devices.

And lastly, will a cell phone battery be improved to last longer than a day or two on each charge? I'll let you know as soon a my blackberry recharges. :)