Mobile is Dead, Long Live Mobile

From Walley On Media – NMA July 2nd .

Did you know that a Yeti is a form of cryptid – ‘an animal ‘whose existence has been reported but not proven’? This is my word of the week. I use it all the time now to describe mobile TV – a new media format whose existence has continually been reported but never proven.

Many cryptids go on to be proven. The Okapi for instance, but I am not sure that mobile TV ever will. One of the problems with proving it is, of course, defining it. With Okapis it was simple – half zebra half giraffe. No messing around. You ask two new media type to define mobile TV and you get 3 different answers depending what bits of kit they have in their pockets. Most people asking, I think, are referring to the streamed and download services offered by the mobile networks – like Sky TV on my Vodafone service. Well, I tried to watch cricket on my phone once via this service. There was definitely something on the screen but I am not sure that I could call it telly.

Recently, I have become more interested in some of the other definitions that are appearing. Someone tried the phrase ‘watching A/V content on a wireless device’ out on me the other day. Apart from being inelegant in its phraseology, this at least had the benefit of covering as wide a range of potential formats as possible. It also nicely blurs the issue of how the stuff got onto the device in the first place.

The people with the most impressive mobile TV service of all, in this wider definition, must be Apple. The combination of iTunes selling telly programmes and my ability to download lots of them onto my iPhone is a winner from a usability point of view. I am just not sure when I am going to watch those 12 episodes of Gavin & Stacy that my kids downloaded with my credit card (apparently ‘Mum said they could’). On holiday, my kids watched one episode in the car and when we got to the hotel they immediately tried to plug it into the TV in the hotel room. They failed, so they moved it all back onto the laptop to watch. Mobile TV this wasn’t.

What I really want to watch on my mobile is the stuff that I have already paid for. As a Sky customer, I am paying a large monthly subscription for content, some of which I record onto a Sky+ box. If I am not at home and have time to kill, I would ideally want access to that. There are two ways that I should be able to do this – neither of which involve me giving money to Vodafone or Apple. The first is with Slingbox. If I have got access to the internet, then I can log in with my laptop and take control of my Sky box at home and watch any live or recorded TV that I have paid for there. This does tend to annoy the wife when she is at home watching Big Brother and I log in from a hotel room the other side of the world and change channel to the cricket.

The other way, which is not yet available on Sky would be to take some of the contents of my Sky+ box with me. The Microsoft Zune synchronises automatically via Bluetooth to a Media Centre TV. You can set it to always make sure that you have the latest version of Coronation Street in your pocket – without paying any more for it.

And that is the crux of it. Unless networked mobile delivers some amazing new functionality, then I am really just looking to use a mobile device to get better use out of content relationships I already pay for. There is no new money on the table for mobile TV to exploit so mobile TV is case not proven. Or, as in the case of the Yeti, the only evidence is a bit of scratchy video footage on which you can’t make out what is actually happening.

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