Monday, July 22, 2013

Pay TV vs. OTT part V: appointment vs. on-demand

The recent emergence of LTE broadcast and eMBMS has prompted many companies to bet much R&D and marketing dollar on the resurgence of the mobile TV model. 

I have trouble believing that many mobile users will be tuning-in "en masse" at regular appointment to watch their favorite show on a mobile device. 
There is nothing wrong with Pay TV, its audience is stable-ish and while most would see OTT services compete for these eyeballs, I see them as a more complementary play. Pay TV is here to stay and I do not see cord cutting as a credible threat in the short term, more cord shaving or cord picking.

Many have been developing and promoting mobile TV models in the past either through broadcast or unicast technologies. The long defunct services from Qualcomm (MediaFLO) and DVB-H should serve as cautionary tales to those who are betting on the next generation of broadcast services. 

Many fail to understand that mobile TV is not attractive to most people in many circumstances. If you are like me, you will watch TV programs, by order of convenience:

  1. When I want, at home, on my PVR (so I can skip the ads)
  2. Live, at home, when it is time sensitive content ( news, sport event, ceremony...)
  3. At a bar, live, when I want to watch sport live with friends or strangers
  4. On a tablet at home (wifi) when I want to watch something else/more than the main screen
  5. On a tablet at hotel /airport (wifi) ...etc... when I want to watch premium content catch up
  6. On a phone / tablet (cellular) if there is no other choice

Don't get me wrong I watch a good amount of video on mobile, just not TV programs. I remember living in Switzerland some 10 years ago and having one of the first video phones
that would perform video calls and stream mobile TV. Past the novelty aspect, no one was watching TV on their phone then, and it wasn't due to network capacity or video quality. Having a video phone then was seriously cool but that did not take away the fact that the TV content I wanted to watch was not available when I wanted to watch it. My Sonyericsson K600 (remember?) joined my first Smartphone (
Philips Ilium, I designed it at Philipsand my first MMS phone (ericsson T68i) in my private museum together with my first PDA (I sent the world's first picture message on a CDMA iPAQ in 2002). 

This is mostly due to the fact that TV is an appointment experience. I like to be comfortable watching TV because I watch only very specific programs. When I sit down to watch TV, I mostly know beforehand what I will watch. The videos I watch on mobile are not necessarily only short form content but I don't mind being interrupted as much because in my mind, it is mostly light entertainment that does not require concentration nor continuity. It is also mostly serendipitous in nature, I do not necessarily plan what I will watch in advance. 
I know that my children and their elder's behavior is similar. They might watch more long form content on their mobile than me but they are mostly not watching TV content. 
While some see broadcast as a means to considerably reduce video load on mobile networks, I think they are missing the point. TV by appointment is a very small portion of the preferred usage, for very specific content, in very specific circumstances. Broadcast TV on mobile makes very little sense apart from niche usage (stadiums,...). 

I don't think that because LTE offers  better network capacity, higher speeds, better quality pictures it will make a better mobile TV service. Don't think for a second that subscribers will pay more than a couple of bucks per month (if anything) to have a TV experience on mobile. People pay for quality, relevance and immediacy on mobile, not the best attributes for broadcast. So before you think about "monetizing" my mobile TV experience, think hard because I won't pay for TV broadcast on mobile.

If you haven't read the other posts in this series, you can find them here for context.
Pay TV vs. OTT:
Part I: The business models
Part II: Managed devices and services vs. OTT
Part III: CE vendors and companion screens
Part IV: Clash of the titans

Friday, July 5, 2013

The war of machine 2 machine: Internet of nothing?

A recent Tweet conversation got me thinking about all the hoopla about machine-to-machine / internet of everything.

Many telecom equipment manufacturer hail the trend as the next big thing for wireless networks, both a bounty to be harvested and a great opportunity for new revenue streams.

There is certainly a lot to think about when more and more devices that were not designed for real time connectivity are suddenly able to exchange, report, alarm... All these devices that could have well suited rudimentary logging software or technology, most of the time for manual retrieval (think your home gaz, water  or electricity meters being read by a technician) could in the future be eligible for over the air data transfer.

A similar discussion I had at LTE world Summit where I was chairing the data explosion stream comes to mind. A utility company in Italy, I think, had rolled out these "smart" meters. The implementation in labs was flawless, the utility was going to save millions, with only a handful of employees monitoring the data center instead of hundreds scouring the countryside reading manually meters. What was unexpected was that all meters had the same behavior, sending keep-alive and reporting logs at the same time. This brought the wireless network down, in a signalling and payload storm that was self-inflicted.

When I look at all the companies that have created apps with no knowledge of how a phone or a mobile network behaves, I can't help but think about the consequences of meters, cars, irrigation sensors, gaz turbines, fridges and traffic light trying to send snippets of data and signalling through a wireless network with no understanding of how these signals and streams will affect the infrastructure.

This immediately bring to mind horrific headlines: "Sheep herds monitoring device bring down network in New Zealand!". "Water and electricity meters fighting over bandwidth..."

More seriously, it means all these device manufacturers will need to get some serious programmers who understand wireless not only to put the transmitters on the devices but also to code efficiently so that signalling and payload are optimized. Network operators will also need to publish best practices for M2M traffic in term of frequency, amount, etc... with stringent SLAs since most of this traffic will be discrete (subscription paid with service or device, no usage payment).