The New York Times business section opens today with an interesting story about mobile TV. For those of you who think this is a service born for the niche – except for Asia, you seem to be mistaking. Alright, in the US it is: Verizon Wireless has been offering this service since March 2007, but it has fewer than 100,000 paying viewers. However, some European countries have adopted the service entusiastically — in Switzerland, 40,000 people watch news broadcasts on a daily basis, and a million Italians pay 19 euros a month to watch a dozen mobile TV channels.
Several American and European investors have started to expand the infrastructure on which mobile TV relies, which the New York Times describes as “special transmission towers that beam to tiny receivers in the mobile phones.” In the UK, France and Germany, mobile video services like these are on their way. AT&T is shaking things up in the US by launching a mobile TV service as well.
These rapid developments exceed the expectations of experts. A year ago, research firm Screen Digest predicted that the adoption of mobile TV services in the UK might have to wait until 2012, due to a shortage of spectrum. The new infrastructure might speeds things up.
The big question remains though: who will watch mobile TV? People stuck in traffic jams or public transport? And still, when caught in a situation like this, wouldn’t you prefer an episode of Seinfeld or anything but a news broadcast? I suspect that people have already found their sources for news: the TV bulletin in the morning, mobile news sites, screens in public transport and for that matter, the newspapers. Who would want to pay another 20 euros for 100 seconds of news broadcasts?