With the hype at an end, mobile TV operators are now facing up to a reality that far from matches the expectations.
This month, the French media authority CSA has called all potential partners for a mobile TV service using the DVB-H standard in the country. The authority is getting impatient with the (lack of) progress of developing a business model. The parties include the 13 broadcasters that received a licence almost two years ago, in May 2008, and the country’s three main mobile operators.
In Germany, the Commission for approval and oversight (ZAK) of the combined media authorities, has asked any parties with a viable business proposition to come forward.
Ever since the Mobile 3.0 consortium handed back its DVB-H licence in the autumn of 2008, a special working group of the regional media authorities has explored a possible rebirth of a DVB-H service with potential candidates and other market players. The ZAK now hopes to reach a clear decision on the possible future of DVB-H.
It is no coincidence that in two major European countries the development of a national DVB-H service seems to stall. We are now past the initial hype and the first experiences in the few European countries that already have a mobile TV service up and running are not very encouraging.
The problems facing a live mobile TV service are plentiful: first, a completely new transmitter network needs to be build at great expense; all parties involved need to be involved – the broadcasters, the operators, the handset manufacturers and the retail channel; then, the pubic needs to be convinced it really needs such a service.
Consumer acceptance looks like being the main ‘obstacle’ as well as ongoing technical progress. Do people really want a live stream of all the channels they watch at home? If the answer is ‘yes’, they can find a much easier solution by adding a small USB DVB-T stick to their laptop and have reception (almost) anywhere. On top of that, manufacturers of DVD players, navigation other mobile devices are now adding a tuner.
There are now even handset manufacturers that are adding the DVB-T tuner – in effect making DVB-H obsolete. And there are of course the many apps for the iPhone making live streams of TV channels possible.
Having television available on other devices than the mobile phone also gives more possibilities – such as recording programmes and taking any video content you want ‘on the go’. And – judging by anecdotal evidence – this seems indeed a feature people want to have. Travelling on the train, waiting for a plane, sitting on the back seat of the car – there is a need and a want for mobile video.