Smartphones are providing a handy platform for broadcasters that want to establish an instant mobile TV platform, writes Julian Clover
Remember mobile TV, of course you do, it was that quaint old-fashioned idea of paying a monthly subscription for a package of TV channels. The jury is still very much out on whether mobile TV can yet be deemed to be a success. By coincidence the DVB’s call for technologies on a next generation handheld standard closes on February 26, even before its predecessor has found its way in the marketplace.
In the meantime broadcasters have been looking to the new generation of smart phones, particularly Apple’s iPhone to provide a conduit to their viewers. Initially this was in the form of text-based services, often a readable version of the website, and Broadband TV News is happy to oblige by providing a mobile-friendly edition of our own website (just view broadbandtvnews.com from your mobile).
The more savvy broadcasters, Sky, DirecTV and Norway’s Get are among those who have produced tools to enable the PVR to be controlled remotely.
Then came the broadcasters, France 24 was the first news channel to provide a mobile version of its content, to be followed by Sky News, Deutsche Welle and BBC World News. The BBC itself has recently announced plans for smartphone apps ready to repurpose website content.
But what do you do when you want to charge a subscription? The answer is to follow Eurosport’s lead and take advantage of Apple’s easing of restrictions on charging for apps through an ongoing subscription. Since the beginning of the week Eurosport has been offering UK iPhone owners access to British Eurosport and British Eurosport 2 through a special version of its Eurosport Player. Viewers pay £2.39 per month or £23.99 per year in subscription. Additional versions are under development for additional territories.
By comparison Sky Sports’ package of mobile channels, which also includes access to ESPN and At The Races, is available for £6 per month.
Eurosport is also benefitting from the apparent easing of restrictions by Apple that had prevented some app providers, among them Echostar’s Sling Player from using 3G, tying users to a Wi-Fi network. Sky extended its mobile service to 3G earlier in the month, but it is not clear as to whether all the mobile networks are willing to support such bandwidth hungry applications. The Sky app will hunt out the strongest signal, be it 3G or Wi-Fi, but will we start to hear the same sort of complaints as have come from fixed line ISPs over services such as the iPlayer, itself heading for the App treatment.
Apple first announced the plans as far back as March 2009 – as SVT will tell you it takes a while for your iPhone application to be approved – it works with the same 70/30 split between the application developer and Apple itself.