Mobile b'casts could include primetime TV


BRUSSELS -- Audiences have a hearty appetite for mobile broadcasts that goes far beyond short viral clips, and even includes primetime television, according to new research published Wednesday .

The report, from ABI Research, says recent advances in broadcasting technology have overturned assumptions about consumers' likely viewing preferences.

"Last year, everybody was saying we would only have two-minute, bite-sized morsels and 'mobisodes,'" said ABI Research director Michael Wolf. "Yet our latest research shows that people are actually watching mobile TV in their bedrooms, for 40 minutes at a time. So, many content providers are now thinking about hour-long episodes of primetime shows."

As recently as 2001, some mobile communications experts were saying that mobile television might be a reality within 20 years, but would probably arrive much later because the technical problems were so difficult. Yet six years later, the study says, successful mobile video technologies are largely in place.

The only unresolved issues are business models, distribution, and content, says the report, which looks at trends over the next five years. This is the case in Europe, where the scattered services in a few national markets have yet to translate into a concerted push by the industry, and consumers remain confused about the technologies. In July, the European Commission attempted to kick-start the industry by announcing that digital video broadcast handheld, or DVB-H, is the preferred common standard for mobile TV technology.

The report says mobile TV is still in a period of experimentation. "Most of the formats and distribution models under consideration have both pros and cons, and the effort is to find the right mix for each type of content and each target audience," it says. "Pricing is a good example. There are at least half a dozen proposed models for pricing access to mobile video content, reflecting the medium's origin in the collision between the entertainment and wireless communications industries. Some will find the "sweet spot" that will attract and hold consumers; others will not."