New research suggests strong interest in mobile TV

Results from an online survey conducted by research firm Canalys of more than 2000 adult mobile phone users in Europe indicate a strong interest in mobile television, with a little more than half of respondents saying they would watch TV from their cell phones.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed expressed interest in mobile TV, with live TV events related to sports matches or reality shows being the most popular type of content at 29 percent. Twenty-three percent said they would watch content relating to hobbies or personal interests that they could not get at home. A similar proportion was interested in having access to exactly the same channels as they had at home. Fifteen percent said they would be interested in watching videos from Web sites such as YouTube, while 14 percent liked the idea of place-shifting content that they had already recorded at home.

Respondents showed similar levels of interest in short clips, half-hour programs and full-length movies, though the form-factor and battery life constraints of mobile phones may make the latter particularly difficult to deliver successfully.

In a statement released by Canalys on the survey, Adrian Drozd, a research analyst for the company, said these results suggested “an opportunity to target particular consumer segments that will likely be more responsive to certain mobile TV propositions.” As an example, he pointed to results showing that 40 percent of those who already watch YouTube said they would watch similar content on their mobile phones. He noted that this segment of respondents also “exhibited much higher levels of interest in all other mobile TV content types.”

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had no interest in watching any kind of TV on a mobile phone, even if the service was free, which may lead operators to wonder how much those consumers who are interested in mobile TV would be willing to pay for such a service. Canalys suggested that while YouTube users may have greater interest, they are also accustomed to getting video content for free. The company also noted that those who are already spending a large amount on pay-TV services at home couldn’t necessarily be counted on to pay again for mobile TV.

“Interest in mobile TV is highest in households that spend more on pay-TV and lowest among those that have only a free-to-air service,” Drozd said. “But in the higher spending pay-TV households, there was much greater interest in having mobile access to the content they had already paid for, either by having the same channels available on the phone or by place-shifting content from home to the phone. It is hard to imagine operators giving mobile access to all those channels away cheaply, and place-shifting over the air is prohibitively expensive without flat-rate data plans.”

In addition to examining consumer interest in mobile TV, the survey also gauged opinions about Apple as a mobile phone provider and interest in GPS navigation on mobile handsets.

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