Korea may cancel mobile TV subway transmissions

March 17, 2009

In 2006, Korea’s six terrestrial mobile TV providers joined together to make it possible for their nation’s underground commuter to be able to watch World Cup football matches on their handsets. Now, they’re getting ready to cut the service.

The “Korea Times” reports that while more South Koreans than ever are enjoying television from mobile handsets, industry officials say mobile TV broadcasters are failing to convert that audience into a profit center.

Of the one-third of all Koreans who watch mobile TV — called DMB for “digital multimedia broadcasting” in Korea — 16 million of them use free terrestrial DMB services and another 1.8 million subscribe to satellite DMB, a pay-TV service from TU Media.

Because terrestrial DMB services are free to users with TV-enabled terminals, advertising revenue is the only source of income for operators. But advertising revenue is sluggish and debt is growing quickly. Now, the country's mobile TV operators are considering the desperate move of halting their coverage on subway lines — possibly alienating an audience that is the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy business landscape.

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