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Survey finds mobile TV interest low in the UK

While mobile video and TV services are gaining traction in the United States (See “M:Metrics sees increase in mobile video viewing in the U.S.”), the outlook is not so cheery across the pond. Data from a recently released report by Continental Research found that interest in mobile TV in the UK was low, with just 1 percent using it in the past 12 months and only 3 percent saying they would be likely to try it in the next year.

In a survey with approximately 646 respondents (all of whom were mobile phone owners) conducted for the report, more than half of the respondents (53 percent) did not express any opinion when asked whether they preferred an ad-free, but high-subscription-fee mobile TV service or an ad-supported free service. While 27 percent of the respondents would choose the free service, the large number of respondents offering no opinion led Continental Research to observe that this is “reinforcing the view that mobile TV is of relatively low interest” in the UK.

Other findings about favored mobile TV payment models included 4 percent of respondents who would pay a higher subscription fee if they didn’t have to watch ads on their mobiles, 16 percent who would prefer a smaller subscription fee and the aforementioned 27 percent who would watch ads if it meant no extra fee. As mentioned above, 53 percent of the respondents said they didn’t know what they would prefer. As for genres, 53 percent of respondents would watch news, 47 percent music videos and 38 percent comedies. Soap operas and made-for-mobile short dramas drew the least interest, with 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

In a statement, Tim Barber, the report’s author, said that while the findings demonstrate interest in ad-supported, no-fee mobile TV, fee-based services are not out of the question if networks play their cards right. “To promote take-up of mobile TV, networks should consider advertiser-funded content to enable customers to access the service (at least initially) for no fee at all,” he said. This would encourage people to sign up for the service and download any software or settings needed for the service to their handsets, paving the way for easing consumers into potential pay services — at least from a technical standpoint.

Barber also recommended that the air time required to receive the signal for mobile video content should be free, or at least very inexpensive, as well as part of the mobile user’s standard subscription package. He noted that while mobile screens are getting bigger, they would be limited by consumers’ desire to have small, compact phones. This means it’s likely that news and sports clips and music videos would be much more appealing to consumers than big-budget movies or wildlife documentaries, where visual impact is more important to the viewing experience.

Another barrier to the mass take-up of mobile TV is that a 3G signal is required to receive the transmissions, the report said. While 3G is available in the UK, the quality of the signal can be inconsistent, making it difficult for networks to take advantage of the opportunities of mobile over fixed television, such as being able to watch it while on a bus or train.

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