Mobile TV Study Finds Low Levels of Interest

David Murphy

A new report in to Mobile TV has revealed low levels of interest, with just 1% of participants in the study using it in the past 12 months and only 3% saying they were likely to try it in the next year.
The figures are contained in Continental Researchs Autumn 2007 'Mobile Report'. Mobile phone owners were asked whether they would prefer to have an ad-free package that required a relatively high subscription fee for the TV service, or have a free service that would have a considerable amount of advertising within the programming, or somewhere in between. Over half (53%) didnt express an opinion. The most popular choice was the completely free option, favoured by over a quarter (27%). Only 4% favoured a higher subscription fee with no advertising.
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, says Report author Tim Barber. This would encourage people to sign up to the service and download the necessary software or settings to their handsets, so that if paid-for services are subsequently introduced handsets will already be ready technically to use the service.
It would also persuade some people who otherwise wouldnt even try the service to take and possibly keep with it even if it moves to a fee-based model. The actual airtime required to receive the signal should also be free or of minimal cost, with users able to use any free or inclusive airtime minutes that are included as part of their standard package.
The ability to watch selected TV services via mobile phone has been around for over two years, and has been the focus of significant marketing efforts by the networks, the report notes. This lack of consumer interest shows that paid-for Mobile TV services are unlikely to provide a significant income stream for the networks in the immediate future.
The report adds that there remain substantial barriers to overcome if Mobile TV is to be a widespread success. Although mobile phone screens continue to grow in size, they are always going to be limited due to the desire to keep most mobile phones as small and as compact a possible. This naturally limits the type of TV content suitable for mobiles. Over half of existing Mobile TV users said they were dissatisfied with the size of the picture, although two-thirds were satisfied with the picture quality. News, sporting clips and music videos are much more likely to appeal than big budget movies or wildlife documentaries, where visual impact is crucial to the appeal of the programme.
This is reflected by the types of content most mentioned as appealing by those likely to watch Mobile TV over the next year. The most popular type of content was news (mentioned by 53%), followed by music videos (47%), then comedies (38%). The types of programming of least interest to mobile owners were soap operas (19%). Potential users were also asked if they would be interested in very short dramas of around 3-5 minutes that would be made especially for mobile phones; just 16% said they would be. However, this low score would have been influenced by the fact that it is a new form of programming that users would not be familiar with, the report notes.
Another significant barrier to the widespread take up of Mobile TV, the report says,  is that a 3G signal is required to receive the transmissions (though ROK would have some issues with this finding Ed). The quality and strength of the signal can be inconsistent, meaning that TV reception can cut out in the middle of a program or cannot be received at all. This particularly impacts upon what could be key opportunities for using Mobile TV, such as when travelling by coach or train, when interference from the vehicle and varying signal quality as the user travels around could affect their viewing experience.
Nearly half of existing users were dissatisfied with the geographical coverage of the service. Another issue affecting take-up is the technical difficulties experienced by those that actually do try to use the service. If those that do initially attempt to use the service experience difficulties, they are likely to generate poor word-of-mouth putting off other potential users, further contributing to slow take-up of the service. This will also have a knock-on effect and put off customers from trying out any future services the networks introduce.
Barber concludes:
As with most new mobile phone features, the younger age groups, particularly 16-24s,  are the key markets, with just under one in ten (9%) of this age-group stating they are likely to use Mobile TV in next year, so there is a potential market for it. There will be certain barriers that the networks and handset manufacturers are unlikely to be able to overcome, such as screen size, but if they deal with issues such as reception, ensuring the service works properly for those that do sign up for it, and continue to target the younger age groups that are most receptive to this service, then we may see more significant growth in the forthcoming year.