Will mobile TV be over before it begins?

"Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

That's 3Com founder Robert Metcalfe in The “7 Worst Tech Predictions of All Time in 1995.”

FierceMobileContent's Jason Ankeny has made a similar prediction that the best days of mobile TV are behind it:

"Prediction No. 4: Mobile TV will officially bottom out … Short of a major reduction in subscription costs or an unexpected, game-changing global event so significant and so fluid that consumers can't look away from their handset screens, mobile TV will continue to underperform in 2009, to the point where some content providers abandon the platform altogether ... until viewers stop tuning out conventional TV, there's no hope they'll start tuning in to mobile TV"

With any new technology there are always naysayers predicting its untimely demise as a result of technical limitations, prohibitive cost or worn-out novelty.

The fallacy of all such predictions is that they don't take into account how new technology changes people's behavior. In the case of moveable type, people started writing more books when there was a way to publish them. And when there were books to read, people started learning to read.

Likewise, once it was possible to surf the Internet easily, increasing numbers of people found things to do there. And as increasing numbers of people connected, businesses found a lucrative market in providing the Internet plumbing that made it possible. Instead of melting down, growing traffic and content spurred new technology development and investment.

So, too, could it be with mobile TV. Ankeny limits his argument to mobile TV in the United States, where it is only currently available through cell phone carriers.

In Asia, where free-to-air (broadcast) mobile TV is readily available, the story is different. For example, Japan and South Korea both have 50 percent penetration for mobile TV viewing, according to the Open Mobile Video Coalition's Executive Director Anne Schelle. Shipments of handsets able to receive Japan's free 1-seg mobile TV service are soaring according to the Japan Electronics Information Technology Association — 10 million in the first half of 2008.

And, one huge development Ankeny fails to mention is the ATSC's new broadcast mobile TV standard, slated for final approval later this year. This month, the ATSC gave broadcasters the go-ahead to start implementing the new specification, now elevated to a Candidate Standard.

For local broadcasters, this could be a game-changer, according to Schelle, offering opportunities for new revenue from existing programming, new programming and advertising models and entirely new kinds of services.

Further, ATSC's Mobile DTV leverages broadcasters' existing terrestrial infrastructure and broadcast spectrum, letting them broadcast the mobile stream within the station's digital channel without interfering with existing multicast and SD or HD programming.

Why would they want to do this?

For broadcasters, the standard's flexible architecture opens up new revenue opportunities and supplies the infrastructure for other value-added services. Spectrum freed by the digital changeover can be used for services like location-based services, advertising and sell-through transactions, "push" on-demand programming, digital video recording, pay-per-view, program guides and extensible storage.

Schelle compares the mobile TV phone to the camera phone, which "took five years to go from a few to pure ubiquity — now every phone has it." Likewise, it will take some time for mobile TV tuners to become equally omnipresent. "In 2010, you'll certainly see new handsets," Schelle said. "A few years from now, they're going to have everything and they'll all be optimized for mobile TV services."

Read Jason Ankeny’s predictions at www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/year-ahead-mobile-content-predictions-sure-go-wrong/2008-12-23?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&cmp-id=EMC-NL-FMC&dest=FMC.

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