Opinion: Mobile TV sucks (and it's not just Frank Lampard's fault)

Columns & Opinion, Mobile phones

stu-mugshot2.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

I’m feeling a bit guilty today, after my blast at Frank Lampard yesterday. Maybe it was a bit harsh talking about his cat-bum mouth and Barcelona-wannabe status.

After all, it wouldn’t take much for him to get me back onside – start playing well for England and don’t release any more autobiographies until he’s won a World Cup, and we’d be sweet.

But nothing will change my opinion about his mobile TV channel, Frank TV. The fact that someone thought mobile users would be interested in watching clips of Chelsea training-ground banter and Lampard’s pets on their phones tells you everything you need to know about current mobile TV. In short, it’s rubbish.

The fact is, there are two types of mobile TV. The first is simulcasts of terrestrial or digital channels. Watch BBC One on the bus! Even if you’re travelling at a time when there’s nothing interesting on! And it’ll cut out regularly if your 3G coverage isn’t rock solid!

It’s an intrinsically flawed idea that only works in very specific situations – you’re in London and a terrorist bomb’s gone off so you need to watch live news, or you’re stuck up a mountain when there’s a big England game on, or… No, actually that’s it.

Simulcasting to mobile is a rubbish idea, especially in the age where hard-drive recorders and video-on-demand mean you never have to miss a programme due to being in the wrong place at the right time. It throws up bonkers examples too, such as trying to watch Sky Sports News, with its windows of constantly-updating data rendered useless by the size of a mobile screen.

And then there’s things like Frank TV, which are as much about marketing relationships (such as Orange’s with Chelsea FC) as they are about what mobile users will actually want to watch. Build a mutually-beneficial licensing rights agreement, and they will come. Except they won’t.

There are some good things happening in mobile TV land. British firm Player X has a channel called GeekTV that slings together snappy, funny stuff like a pint-sized Men & Motors (except good). But this kind of original, made-for-mobile mobile TV is few and far between, because ‘get Sky on your phone’ makes a better marketing campaign to flog handsets.

Will people ever watch mobile TV? Y’know what? I think they will. But I think it’s far more likely to be on-demand shows. Broadcasters are all launching catch-up online services like the BBC’s iPlayer – and if they can integrate phones sooner rather than later, downloading last night’s Eastenders to watch on your mobile could catch on.

Plus there’s clips. Watching a few YouTube videos on your phone makes sense, or downloading Crazy In Love to watch the bum-wiggling bit (is that just me? Oh.) or streaming a cricket highlights show.

But not simulcasts. And not a Frank Lampard vanity channel, or indeed that of any other footballer. Even if they include live roasting. If mobile TV is ever going to become popular, the operators need to think much more imaginatively.

Stuart Dredge is editor-in-chief of Tech Digest. The only football mobile TV channel he’d consider watching is live streaming of Delia Smith going loopy during Norwich City matches.

Stuart Dredge
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  • Hi Mike. All of this is true. The big difference, however, is that I KNOW footage of my pets scratching around won’t interest millions of mobile users.

  • You’re picking on Frank’s physical attributes?! Look in the mirror my friend! You have a pasty complexion and a big nose. Sideburns went out in the eighties and your hairstyle is reminiscent of a young Corey Feldman, definitely nothing to aspire to! Shame on ye!

  • Well said, Stuart! I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    That’s why we at ROK are delivering our partner telcos with a combination of live and on-demand channels (proper VoD, mind) streamed ‘unicast’ over existing 2.5G, 3G and WiFi networks.

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