MediaFLO over Verizon gets imperfect review

‘Cost, thin coverage and limited selection place this service somewhere between regular TV and its Web offshoots,’ according to the ‘Washington Post.’

One of the most hyped media trends of 2007 has been mobile television. Now a major review of Verizon’s VCAST mobile TV has found the experience “pretty low-tech on a small screen.”

The review, by Rob Pegoraro of the “Washington Post,” focused on the QUALCOMM MediaFLO technology as sold by Verizon Wireless.

“Cost, thin coverage and limited selection place this service somewhere between regular TV and its Web offshoots,” Pegoraro wrote. “It can help some video-starved customers keep up with their favorite shows and games, but only if they’re in the right places with the right cell phones — and willing to run up their cell phone bills.

The service starts at $13 a month for a bundle of CBS, FOX, NBC and NBC News. The $15-a-month plan includes channels from CBS, Comedy Central, ESPN, FOX, MTV, NBC, NBC News and Nickelodeon.

However, the review warned, these channels “don’t match the ones you watch on TV. Instead, they offer a grab-bag of shows; for example, the NBC News channel combines shows from CNBC and MSNBC.”

Verizon Wireless provides the service in 50 metropolitan areas nationwide — a ways away from its description of TV “that goes wherever you go,” the review noted.

Pegoraro, based in Washington, D.C., said coverage reaches most of the farther suburbs in Virginia but peters out not far south and east of the Beltway in Maryland. “Even in the central part of the District, I usually had to extend a thin, frail-looking wire antenna from one end of the phone to pull in a signal. And sometimes Mobile TV defied all my attempts to get it to work.”

At his desk at the “Post’s” downtown headquarters, for example, the signal rarely held steady for more than a minute, he wrote. Even with a clear signal, the review said the picture quality of the service “looked no better than that of VHS tape.”

“Why bother,” he asked, “with the expense and complexity of a separate signal for TV when you can stream that same video over an Internet connection?”