In one of the biggest moves yet to push new mobile TV services to a global audience, this month Vodafone will begin to offer a mix of world TV brands, European sports coverage and entertainment programs across its international markets.
Under its new global mobile TV channel offering, Vodafone will provide popular programs that are easy to view on small mobile phone screens, the operator said today.
The programs will be available as a video stream or download through Vodafone's Live portal. Customers will need 3G (third-generation) handsets. Pricing information was not immediately available.
Research conducted by Vodafone suggests that customers want to view on their mobile phones many of the same programs they watch on their televisions at home, the operator said.
The globally secured content will complement domestic mobile TV offerings already available in eight Vodafone markets: Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK and New Zealand, Vodafone said.
The programmes include the popular Sex and the City and Six Feet Under series, as well as Eurosport, Uefa Champions League soccer, Discovery and MTV.
Availability, packaging and programming will vary according to market.
Vodafone owns stakes in operators in 27 countries and has partnerships with network operators in an additional 27 countries. The operator claims a customer base of more than 171m.
Rival Orange SA is also actively promoting mobile TV, having announced earlier this year plans to reach 1m active TV users by the end of 2006.
How to price mobile TV, however, seems to be a question many operators have yet to answer. Most mobile TV offers currently available in Europe are free in an effort to create interest.
The three pricing models for mobile TV at present are free, subscription or pay-as-you-use, according to a pricing report on mobile TV written by Bena Roberts, wireless analyst with Current Analysis. All these models have flaws, according to Roberts.
"The economics of free mobile TV don’t add up and the strategy is a short-term one to proliferate use," she wrote. "Monthly subscriptions for mobile TV mirror pay-TV charges and consumers find the number of monthly subscriptions and bundles confusing. Pay-as-you-use subscriptions enable users to experience a flavor of mobile TV on demand, but there is always the fear of runaway bills."
A mobile TV pricing strategy that is flexible and offers users choice or 'free' viewing minutes in the monthly bundle is the best way of increasing dependency on mobile TV and driving uptake in the future, Roberts wrote in the report.