Where's the Demand for Mobile TV?
Indeed, it's clear that the industry drivers can't figure out where the technology is going. Will people just want to watch short video clips? Or will they want feature films and sitcoms? Do they want interactivity? If so, at what level?
Mike Masnick of TheFeature.com compares the current situation to that of interactive TV in the early '90s. Back then, the industry touted interactive TV as the wave of the future. But it never took off because TV audiences simply didn't want it. Yet the interactivity concept manifested itself a few years later with the Web. What gave?
Masnick suggests that the "interactivity" of interactive TV was too limited to be of use to people, and designed to benefit the broadcasters rather than the audience. The Web, by contrast, was far more flexible. That's true, but there's another factor at work that may well impact the mobile TV market. Almost all of the truly compelling content and interactivity found on the Web was open source, and initially developed at a grass-roots level. Unlike interactive TV, which was top-down and corporate driven, anybody with a modest set of skills could create an interesting website with little money and with relatively simple tools. The Web worked because it was a platform for content that could never be made available in a mass-market format like TV. The audience decided what was interesting by creating their own content, and voting with their mouse-clicks.
If mobile TV content proves to be too limited, people will lose interest quickly. But if the content is rich, creative and a little bit quirky, then the market could potentially explode. The only way that will happen, though, is if mobile carriers and device manufacturers open up their standards to the general public, allowing the audience to determine the direction of the medium by creating their own content.