Mobile TV: Just about ready for primetime

As wireless carriers launch broadcast services like mediaFLO and the search for a target market begins, both carriers and publishers can immediately cater to the untapped well of downtimers, the 28 million US adults who have jobs with significant downtime that do not sit in front of a computer all day. These 28 million consumers can view content during work hours where there is little competition for them from other media. Mobile TV has the power to deliver clear benefits to this group.

To date, only a few consumers have shown dedicated interest in the early mobile TV products. Just 3.5% of online mobile content research is devoted to mobile video. Although there was a spike in interest last year during March, April and May, on average less than 0.7% of visitors to major carrier websites each month viewed information about mobile TV in 2006.

The good news is that this interest primarily comes from hardcore users of online communities and fantasy sports, both of which are "˜downtime’ activities that can be enhanced by an always-available connection to information. In a recent Compete survey, 65% of wireless shoppers said they would be willing to accept regular advertising in exchange for free or discounted mobile content. This could signal that the timing is ripe for mobile marketing to piggy-back off of the expected growth in mobile TV.

Consumers also appear to be increasingly comfortable purchasing content on the handset. Traditionally, wireless users report a preference for buying content on their computer rather than on their handset because of the ease of browsing large content libraries. In a recent Compete study, however, 51% of wireless content buyers said they bought content on their handset. They reported choosing handset purchase because it was easier and faster than buying on a website or in a store. Combine this trend with the fact that mobile video purchasers buy an average of 3.4 video clips per year, and it becomes clear that there is an emerging comfort with purchasing and consuming mobile video on the handset, even in the limited form that it has largely been available.

Be sure to check out the blog tomorrow, which will look at mobile content as it relates to social networking.

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