Accelerating adoption of tablets such as the iPad is dramatically shifting TV viewing habits, and mobile TV might just have found its true calling. Guy Daniels reports.
A new survey commissioned by video service management specialists QuickPlay Media suggests that more than half of UK consumers have watched TV or movies on mobile devices and that this trend is accelerating – both for ‘live’ and on-demand programmes. The study, which was conducted by Redshift Research, found that 76 per cent of 18-44 year olds say that they watch more TV on tablets and mobiles than just one year ago.
The majority of respondents (51 per cent) reported having watched a TV programme or film on a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet. These ‘mobile TV’ watchers preferred to view on demand TV (44 per cent) compared to 28 per cent who preferred to use mobile devices to watch live programming. Although most consumers watch mobile TV at home, 39 per cent said they watch TV on mobile devices while commuting.
A recent Gartner report estimated that worldwide tablet sales will exceed 63 million units sold in 2011, representing a 261 per cent increase over 2010. Mark Hyland of QuickPlay Media said that we are in the midst of a transformation of the way consumers watch programmes:
“The explosive growth of tablets is driving a tremendous demand for service providers to increase the amount of premium mobile content they offer to their subscribers.”
The report also found that TV episodes are the most frequently viewed type of content with nearly 60 per cent of respondents indicating that they use mobile devices to watch catch-up TV, closely followed by sporting events and news.
Perhaps given the ergonomics of the iPad – larger than phones, bigger screen, more suitable to using whilst seated, etc – tablet device users watch mobile TV for far longer time periods than on smartphones.
20 per cent of tablet device users reported having spent more than an hour of uninterrupted time watching a TV programme or a movie.
There’s also a degree of loyalty emerging from the current generation of mobile TV users, with 33 per cent of respondents reporting they watch at least once per week and 12 per cent viewing almost every day.
What appears to be missing from the research are clues about viewers use the connectivity offered by wireless devices to interact with the programmes and share their experiences with other online viewers. With Google about to make another push at the Connected TV, with support from Samsung, the big debate at the moment centres around which comes first – the connectivity and interaction or the viewing device? In other words, do you place the connectivity within the traditional TV set, or do you place the TV within a connected and personal device?
After years of floundering and many false starts, mobile TV may have found its market – it has less to do with transmission technologies like DVB-H, and far more to do with enhancing the viewing experience. Interest is high, with the QuickPlay survey reporting that over 75 per cent of respondents would like their service provider to invest more in their mobile TV services.
However, others in the industry continue to push the transmission technology, in yet another attempt to baffle the audience, certainly in the US at least (remember the now defunct MediaFlo from Qualcomm?).
From January 1 next year, a new mobile TV standard will come into effect. ATSC-M/H (Advanced Television Systems Committee – Mobile/Handheld) offers broadcast, real-time, live transmission of TV shows, with major broadcasters such as NBC and Fox amongst the first to roll out mobile-ready programming. Developed by the Open Mobile Video Coalition, it will be marketed as Mobile Digital TV (MDTV) – effectively an upgrade to the coalition’s earlier attempts at mobile TV.
It’s not a million miles removed from Europe’s troubled DVB-H standard, as it comes from the broadcast sector and not telecoms. This isn’t a bolt-on to 3G or 4G technology, it’s standalone. It’s a free-to-air extension to the existing terrestrial TV system that operates in the US.
However, it needs a dedicated hardware receiver module for it to work, which means it needs the support of phone manufacturers. With the new standard coming out in January, the industry (not just phones, but also video players, in-car units, USB dongles and emergency response devices) is adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach. The OMVC’s website contains a FAQ sheet that helpfully says: “The Coalition anticipates the introduction of commercial products by 2010.” Product should start arriving in shops in the middle of next year.
Whether the US MDTV will fair better than MediaFlo, or indeed Europe’s DVB-H, is highly debatable.
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