Mobile TV: A Service for the Masses?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on February 13, 2007

I just talked with Gina Lombardi, who heads Qualcomm’s MediaFlo division. Yesterday, MediaFlo announced that giant AT&T will start offering its mobile TV service to its subscribers. Coming on the heels of a similar announcement from Verizon Wireless, that’s a huge win for MediaFlo. And it’s a clear indication that, in their trials, these carriers are seeing mass demand for mobile TV.

Initially, Lombardi told me, MediaFlo’s service was expected to appeal to 18- to 34-year-olds. What the company found, instead, was that “age doesn’t matter,” she says. “It appeals to people who are passionate about TV.” In fact, an average user ended up watching mobile TV for 30 to 60 minutes a day — way more than originally projected. Some people ended up watching full-length movies on their small cell phone screens.

Indeed, it makes sense that mobile TV would have wide appeal. After all, cell phone screens are getting larger. Apple's iPhone device, due to come out this summer, should have a decent-sized display. Now it's just a matter of enabling mobile TV on these phones.

Phones using MediaFlo's chips have decent battery life. Per Lombardi, an average MediaFlo phone should offer four hours of video-viewing time and four hours of talk time. That's much better than what I manage to eek out of my ordinary Razr today.

Mobile content is exploding as well. It seems like every video content provider nowadays is looking at making that content available on cell phones. Indeed, MediaFlo already has agreements with MTV, Fox, ESPN. And MediaFlo is looking at commissioning exclusive content as well.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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