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Monday, November 13, 2006

"The future of TV will be personal" says Nokia. Well, maybe in some cases....

I'm waiting for for Nokia or another mobile phone vendor to come out in the next couple of years and say "Mobile convergence has won again - only 190m TV sets ship annually, but 300m+ TV-capable phones have been sold".

Last week we saw the precursor to that pronouncement with Nokia's announcement of a report it had commissioned with the London School of Economics, with the press release title of "The future of TV will be personal" . Now, at first glance this report looks to me that it's got a lot of good stuff in it, and, to be fair, PR-speak is always a little hyperbolic. And I am generally a believer in the concept (if not the business models) for Mobile TV. But I'm wondering if the industry is perhaps breathing its own exhaust a bit too much at the moment.

Although I don't profess to know much about the mainstream broadcast industry, it strikes me that where consumer are actually spending money at the moment is on larger TV devices, not smaller ones. Apparently, around 45m LCD and Plasma screens will sell this year, many of comparatively enormous size. Add this to the ongoing adoption of "home cinema" systems, and it seems that for many of the most affluent consumers, TV is actually getting "less personal".

And don't forget that product lifetimes here are much longer, so in fact "installed base" is a more important metric for advertisers and content companies than "devices shipped". (And, of course, another key metric for advertisers is the physical size of any given image). Now, I know that TV-watching patterns are under threat from various sources, including mobile applications and the PC-based Internet. But at the same time, the traditional broadcasters are fighting back with HDTV and other offerings. It is conspicuous that the LSE report fails to comment on some of the more visible corollary trends elsewhere in TV-land (the word "plasma" isn't in the document anywhere).

It will be interesting to sit back in 5 years time and look at the comparative size of the "TV ecosystems" - (equipment sales + advertising + pay TV revenues + licence fees etc) for large-screen home systems vs. mobile TV. While I am expecting to see ad revenues transition towards mobile (ie they'll definitely rise from near-zero roday....), I suspect that the big-screen plasma & surround sound devices will continue to command a much greater "Ooooh, I want one of those!" effect among product buyers, even at the $1000-2000 price points that seem typical.

What may emerge is that plasma/LCD screens end up being the platform of choice for "massmarket" content (ie big sports, movies, major news & documentary programming, soap operas etc), while some combination of the mobile and the PC become the preferred screens for the "long tail". There will be comparatively few "Two plasma/LCD screen households", and so personal devices will start to supplant smaller TVs in the kitchen, bedroom etc. (In fact, I heard a rumour that a significant % of viewing time in one of the better-known mobile TV trials was actually conducted from the throne in the loo....)

One last thing - it seems to me that one of the big plus points of plasma and LCD screens is their thinness. Sound familiar to anyone? Now, remind me again which mobile phone manufacturer hasn't exactly over-embraced the "thin" concept?


Anonymous said...

Cool. I think mobile TV has still a long time before it comes to full stren especially in India where I live. Anyways, nice article. you can read a nice industry research blog at http://rncos.com/Blog which i found i quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

Good to see that report generates such a lively discussion!
If you read the report carefully, you will note that it clearly doesn't argue that mobile TV will replace TV or that TV is dying. Quite the contrary: it argues that mobile TV will complement TV and will fundamentally be interconnected with 'traditional' TV, the two broadcast media enhancing each other.
And while it's true that consumers are spending money on larger TV devices, at the same time they invest (not just money, but also time, energy, expectations and desires) in enhancing their mobile experience by using multimedia mobile devices. Mobile TV is likely take this a few steps further. Not tomorrow morning, and probably not even in a year or two, but gradually it will become more widespread, alongside other media.
If you want to read the full report and/or watch the panel discussion that was held to mark the announcement of the report you can visit www.nokia.com/press/mobiletvreport
Dr. Shani Orgad
Department of Media and Communications
London School of Economics