'Mobile TV' Is Dead, Long Live Mobile Video

Mobile TV is dead, dead, dead. You heard it here first folks.

Anyone who's been reading this blog knows that I'm a detractor of "mobile TV" -- that is, the business model of paying a premium subscription for live TV on your mobile phone. I do however think that mobile video will continue to grow dramatically over time. The issue is: what's the business model?

People are only going to be willing to pay for "mobile TV" as part of an upsell bundle (maybe) or for sports or adult programming. Otherwise, given the quality for most people today, it's not worth it. 

But free, ad supported mobile video -- such as what Babelgum is doing in Italy -- is going to become dominant vs. the premium subscription model (e.g., MediaFlo). Consumers are going to go where the video is free. Clips are already free from many mobile sources: YouTube, Joost, Truveo, etc. Expect Hulu to eventually get in the game. 

But there are other interesting models and possibilities that might allow for separate fees. One is cable providers starting to offer mobile access to programming as part of a small upsell (or package). Another is what Sling Media is doing, providing mobile access across most smartphone platforms (now BlackBerry is being added). As far as I can tell it comes with your subscription and doesn't involve a separate fee, but this might prompt some people to get the Sling Box. 

I imagine a future mobile video landscape that consists of:

  • Downloaded movies/TV (e.g., iPod) that are purchased on an individual basis
  • Ad-supported archived TV shows (e.g., Hulu)
  • Cable TV access via mobile (e.g., Sling and potentially cable cos, eventually)
  • Miniscule % subscribing to services such as MediaFLO

Accordingly, the future of mobile TV/video will mostly be free/ad supported.