Amid Consumer Non-Interest, AT&T Readies Mobile TV

AT&T is reportedly ready to launch Qualcomm's MediaFLO, as its mobile TV service to rival Verizon's VCast. It will debut on two phones (LG and Samsung) and be available in 58 US markets. Ten channels will be featured, eight of which are common with VCast and two which are exclusive. Here are the common channels: CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN Mobile TV, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go and Nickelodeon.

There's plenty of emprical evidence that the public is not (yet) interested in mobile TV. Mobile video clips (e.g., YouTube or movie trailers) -- maybe. Though reports are that the quality of MediaFLO is decent, the infrastructure doesn't really support mobile TV in the US. Further, as an additional cost item ($15 per mo.) it's not going to fly for most users.

If mobile Internet access is not perceived as necessary by many mobile TV is even farther out from the needs of users. The Wall Street Journal cites Yankee Group data that reflects approximately 5% of US consumers are willing to pay for mobile TV. This is attitudinal rather than behavioral; so I would guess the numbers in reality would be somewhat less.

Pew mobile usage data
Source: Pew Internet

Currently M:Metrics has reported mobile TV viewing among <4.6% of the US user population, while Pew reported 10% (at any time) and 3% "watch video" on a "typical day." Those numbers, extrapolated, do turn out to be a lot of people potentially with an appetite for video on their handsets, though not necessarily mobile TV. Most people are simply going to pass on the offering because of cost and inferior user experience.

Yet there's almost a compulsion among the carriers to develop mobile TV offerings because of the competitive environment and the need to develop new revenue sources. But for some time to come, mobile TV will not be one of them.