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Thursday, July 31, 2008

‘Pocket-size’ Idiot box all set to debut

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An overwhelming majority of Indians are ‘interested’ in Mobile TV. Here’s what this new media promises for all stakeholders. By PALLAVI SRIVASTAVA

“By the end of 2015 the biggest TV viewing in the country will happen through handheld/mobile devices,” exclaims Ashish Kaul, Executive Vice President, Zee Network. He prophesies that since India is a country that has surpassed world standards in mobile penetration, there is a huge emerging market of people who would like to watch content on handheld/mobile devices. “Traditional television in India is already dead and the future of TV is in mobile devices,” he adds.

Ashish maybe exaggerating when he claims the imminent death of traditional TV media in the country, but he is bang on when he says that Mobile TV indeed has a promising future ahead. Sample this: According to a report by Springboard Research – ‘Mobile TV in India’ – 84% of the mobile phone users in the country are interested in using Mobile TV, if it is easily available and suits their pocket.

But how’s it all going to be made possible? Everyone knows that Mobile TV allows users to watch live television content on mobile phone or other mobile devices. And that the phenomena will give users the freedom to watch television anywhere anytime. But here’s what is pushing the potential of the new media. Industry experts feel that mobile TV will kick off in a big way in the coming years, thanks largely to hectic urban lifestyles. Gaurav Sinha, Senior Media Planner in a leading media buying agency explains, “People are spending more time traveling. So, entertainment on the wheels will be the buzz of the industry, in times to come.” He adds that the same is a key reason for the revival of radio in the country, in recent times.

Moreover, India is all set to soon see the emergence of a mass 3G market, to further boost the already budding mobile market. The convergence of broadcast and mobile markets will result in favourable conditions for Broadcast Mobile TV services. “Once these technologies reach acceptable price levels for the Indian market, particularly on handsets, the market for Mobile TV will move ahead rapidly,” says Sue Taylor, Vice-President and General Manager, NDS Asia Pacific. It is expected that Mobile TV will capture around 12 million subscribers in the first year of its launch taking the market size to an impressive (for a beginner) $360 million (Source: Springboard Research).

As far as the technology for Mobile TV is concerned there are two types of technology, which are currently relevant for the Indian market. One is Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB- H) and the other is Media Flo (developed by Qualcomm). In the DVB-H technology the content is broadcast just the way it is done in traditional television. But one has to set up a new broadcast network to telecast Mobile TV through DVB-H technology. On the contrary Media Flo technology can telecast Mobile TV using the existing telecom network, with some additional investments and enhancement.

Further, like traditional television, there will be a service provider (one who makes the service available to the end customer like cable or DTH operators for traditional TV), a content provider (the broadcaster), and in place of the traditional television set, all one needs to have is a cell phone that supports mobile television viewing.

However, presently there are no service provider in the country for Mobile TV services. State-broadcaster Doordarshan is executing a pilot project, but that too is in a very nascent stage. The options, however are plentiful. Either an existing broadcaster may tie-up with one (or more) telecom player to provide its content to their subscribers. Or the content provider itself can set up its own network through DVB-H technology. Leading media houses have begun studying the feasibility of various options to go mobile, as they say.

There is also another possibility and that is that an independent company decides to get into the business of service provider for Mobile TV. Whatever be the case, one thing is for sure that mobile operators willing to provide Mobile TV service will have an upper hand over standalone Mobile TV operators as they already have an existing network, which can be used to provide the service.

Further, mobile operators in the country also have an existing subscriber base to whom they are already providing various value-added services. So, they too need not go head hunting for consumers to take their services, and instead sell Mobile TV services directly to existing consumers. Coming to handsets, companies like Nokia and Samsung have already launched a few models that support the Mobile TV format and are planning to launch more.

Another factor is the content for Mobile TV. 4Ps B&M spoke to industry veterans to figure what programming mix can one expect on Mobile TV. Most were of the view that a majority of Mobile TV subscribers would prefer to watch the same content on their mobiles as they do on their TV sets at home. “News, sports, music videos and game shows are the genres that can rule the ‘pocket size’ idiot box,” says Ravi Shekhar Pandey, Manager, Syndicated Research, Springboard.
Besides, there are manifold benefits of Mobile TV for all stakeholders. A consumer gets the freedom to watch TV while s/he is on the move and that too in a personalised manner (eliminating the need to watch a ‘K’ brigade serial just because your mom wants to watch it!). For mobile service providers and broadcasters, it can result in higher growth opportunity and higher Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU). And most importantly, for the advertiser, it promises a much sharper audience resulting in higher ROI.

Having said that, there are indeed some policy issues, which can create complication in the application of Mobile TV, but Springboard’s Ravi feels otherwise. “I don’t think policy will be a big challenge one needs to get the right technology and the right business model in place,” he says. So, ready to catch the ‘Delhi Daredevils’ sweating it out with ‘Kolkata Knight Riders’ live on your cell phone then?

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2008

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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