Thursday, March 20, 2008

Build It and They Will Come (But Will They Watch?)

According to a recent report, mobile TV has arrived in India. Up to 6% of India’s mobile subscribers are interested in purchasing new TV-capable handsets to take advantage of new offerings like Nokia’s and (government-run telco) MTNL’s launch of mobile TV services. With 250 million mobile users and eight million new subscribers every month, India remains one of the mobile industry’s hottest markets. If the convergence of mobile technology and TV is the next killer application, no one wants to be left behind. Industry stakeholders in India and elsewhere are developing standards and grabbing spectra in anticipation of the mass adoption of mobile TV. The hope is that global sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup will encourage uptake of the new technology.

Indeed, televised games (and local language programming) appear to be key drivers of media growth rates. A recent report on African Broadcast Markets by Balancing Act, a publisher and consultancy with a focus on media and telecommunications in Africa, shows the rapid uptake in media consumption in African cities. But will increased media consumption extend to the mobile phone? On-the-ground experience in emerging markets makes Vital Wave Consulting skeptical of high demand for TV on phones. In most cultures, football matches and other televised games are social events that don’t lend themselves to small screens.

Vital Wave Consulting encourages companies to focus on how convergence is actually taking place on the ground. Keen observers see clearly that media, computing, telecommunications and the Internet are not being adopted at the same rate or according to the same usage patterns in emerging markets as they are in mature markets. There are many opportunities for hardware, software, networking, services, media and telecommunications companies to profitably participate in convergence. Whether or not mobile TV takes off in India, multinational companies would do well to keep their radar trained on mobile browsing, commerce and banking as well. Carefully and systematically observing on-the-go transactions will point to the future winners in a converged world.

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