Mobile TV: A Traditional TV Rival?

For a long time, mobile TV hasn't been considered to be a competitor to cable and satellite TV. But that could change soon, as mobile TV quality improves and people start using stand-alone, large cell phone screens.

Ever since mobile TV debuted several years ago, people have been pointing out that it's not up to par to traditional TV -- not even close. The cell phone screen mobile TV is designed to be viewed on is small. Footage is jerky. There's no way mobile TV can make a dent in cable/satellite TV viewing, this thinking went.

I think this thinking is changing. Mobile TV quality has improved drastically. I'd just trialed Sprint Nextel's TV service, and the quality was excellent. The colors were vivid. The quality of the video was so much better than when I tried TV service half a year ago. In fact, telco execs I've talked to recently say that mobile TV viewers are increasingly consuming longer content. While, in the past, they would only watch 5-10 minutes of video at a time, now some of them are watching 30-minute episodes. That's as long as we watch sitcoms on TV.

The small cell phone screen is not going to hamper mobile TV's spread for much longer, either, I think. Recently, Bill Gates demoed a capability where you plug your cell phone into a large TV screen at an airport, or a cafe, or at home, or a train. The screen receives footage from the phone vs. cable or satellite. Knowing that Gates typically demoes functionalities that would come out in the next year or so, I would expect such large cell phone screens to start popping up soon.

The bottom line: Mobile TV could emerge as a real cable/satellite TV competitor.

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