While editing this week's personal tech story about all the ways you can get video on your mobile device, I was surprised. I knew mobile TV was moving forward by leaps and bounds, but I had no idea there were so many different options available right now.You can get short show clips, news updates, and music videos from your cellular service provider. You can subscribe to channels that send real-time streaming TV shows to your PDA or smart phone, or you can set up a Slingbox to stream video content to you. You can buy individual shows to play on your iPod, subscribe to a movie-download service, use a hybrid DVR/video player combo, or choose from several other options. In other words, if you have a fairly recent mobile device with video capabilities, chances are you can find a way to get some kind of video content on the go.
But do you really want to? If you're sitting in an airport or on the subway or in the doctor's office, is watching TV how you want to fill up your time? Frankly, I would much rather read a book, listen to music, or solve a crossword puzzle than watch the 563rd CNN recap of the news story du jour. But that's me. I'm afraid my connection to today's hot media trends isn't what it was when I was 20.
To get a more balanced view, I asked a few co-workers whether they were interested in getting TV on their mobile devices. One of them sounded an emphatic "No," saying, "I watch a ton of TV, but I have no desire to watch it on a mobile device. It's just not something I care about doing."
Another voiced concerns over the amount of time she already spends watching TV at home, worrying that the ability to view TV on the go would only feed her habit. On the other hand, she said, she would be interested in catching certain momentous TV events--Katie Couric's first broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News, for instance--as they happen, wherever she happens to be.
She's got a point there. I can see the appeal of watching the World Series live, or the final episode of your favorite show that you just know everyone will talk about before you get to watch your TiVo'd version. But I'm not sure it would be worth paying a monthly subscription fee for such occasional use.
Yet another co-worker finds the small format too limiting. "Maybe it's because I'm getting old and have to use glasses for reading," she said, "but I can't imagine trying to watch shows on such a tiny screen."
She's not the only one. At this year's National Association of Broadcasters conference, HBO executive Bob Zitter discussed some of the problems of playing HBO shows, which tend to have a dynamic range of light and sound, on the small, small screen. "We ran a test version of Deadwood on a cell phone, a scene where everyone was sitting around a campfire," he said. "All you could see is a little flicker of light."
Despite these concerns and others (including cost, infrastructure, and standards), study after study predicts rapid growth in both the number of subscribers and the revenue generated by mobile TV. What do you think? Do you see yourself subscribing to mobile TV service in the next three years? What would it take to get you to subscribe? Weigh in below.