Griffiths on mobile: Improving customer experience is key formobile TV to take off

Having reviewed the options for mobile TV last month, I was intrigued by a white paper from Ovum a few days after my copy deadline on the same subject.

The conclusion was that operators are struggling to establish mobile TV as a mainstream medium. While this is disappointing news, it was also, unfortunately, not surprising. The report pointed to several challenges.

A number of content issues were cited. Firstly, a lack of new material or insight when screening existing TV programmes was seen as a key issue. I've long believed the role of mobile TV is to add something for the user; for example, a summary of episodes missed, previews of future shows and additional footage that is not available on traditional TV.

This is a role for broadcast to a mobile, particularly for news or must-see live sport or music events, but its use is limited in the latter instance to individuals who cannot get to a larger screen at the time or are using their mobile as a personal TV, perhaps even at home.

A second content issue is the cost of made-for-mobile content. New shows need existing celebrities/brands to attract audiences. In the existing TV world this cost is borne by mass viewership and ad revenue. At the initial stages of mobile development, without a mass audience or workable ad model, the business struggles.

Finally, lack of standards - for example in the number of channels available - was cited. Research over the years has consistently demonstrated that viewers, irrespective of the number of channels available to them, tend to watch only six or seven on traditional TV. It was speculated by Ovum that the same number for mobile is four and, therefore, to provide a selection that caters for all tastes the number of channels available to the user should be 24. Certainly, the option of watching only four channels, or having to find your favourites among 60, given the difficulties of a small screen, is not the experience most customers are looking for.

So, what is required for mobile TV to work? In short, my view is more investment throughout the value chain. Revenue will flow from advertisers and/or subscriptions once audiences are there, but, meanwhile, investment in handsets and networks isn't enough. Higher standards for customer experience are needed. This is a long-term play and needs to be seen as such by all.

- Hugh Griffiths, VP strategy, O2, and digital media consultant. hugh.griffiths@haymarket.com.

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