Jumat, 18 April 2008

Television programs on cell phones and other mobile devices took another step toward becoming widespread Thursday with AT&Ts announcement that it will launch its Mobile TV with FLO in May.

The mobile-TV service from the largest U.S. mobile carrier will provide high-quality, live television content and sporting events from leading networks, as well as programming from two exclusive channels. The networks include CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN Mobile TV, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2GO, NBC News2Go, and Nickelodeon. AT&T already offers music services and Web access as it tries to boost its revenue from content while phone-service prices continue to drop.


The content of the two channels that will be available only to AT&T customers was not announced. Mobile TV with FLO is provided by MediaFLO USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm.

The TV service will be available initially only on two devices from AT&T, the LG Vu, which has a large interactive touch screen, and the Samsung Access, which features a large landscape display.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, noted that, with the possible exception of the two exclusive but undefined channels, AT&Ts service is essentially the same basic service offered by Verizon Wireless.

He described MediaFLO as "the best mobile-TV service Ive seen," adding that the "video is smooth, changing channels is instantaneous, and it feels like TV." He also pointed out that it isnt carried over the AT&T or Verizon networks, but over MediaFLOs own network. As a result, the coverage for the MediaFLO services is not the same as the phone coverage on either AT&T or Verizons networks, Greengart said.


He said its probably best that AT&T waited to launch MediaFLO because it gave the service time to work out "the kinks," including contracts with more content providers. But he also pointed out that its being launched on only two devices at AT&T and, at the moment, its not clear if there is any differentiation in the service from Verizon. The announcement also did not mention pricing.

Will TV service become commonplace on mobile devices? Greengart noted an oft-quoted figure -- in South Korea, 10 percent of all mobile devices have TV service. But, he pointed out, the U.S. market so far has not come near that penetration. "MediaFLO TV service on Verizon hasnt exactly taken the world by storm," he said.

Among other major carriers, he noted that Sprint, with its own EVDO service, has said its not interested in MediaFLO, and T-Mobile has not expressed any interest.

But mobile devices with a sufficient display and bandwidth will have access to TV if they have access to the Web, although not necessarily live programming. For example, a variety of major networks have cooperated in providing programming for Hulu.com, where episodes of popular TV series can be seen on demand.


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