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Mobile TV: Calling up the future

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By Iddo Shai, Director, Product Marketing at video technology company Kaltura

After a few years of hype, momentum is building around mobile TV. A growing abundance of mobile-ready premium content is one reason. The availability of live streaming video apps from some of the biggest tech players is another.

Last year, consumers without a TV or TV subscription device were treated to a whole raft of new, premium content optimised for mobile devices. Probably the biggest move was from HBO in the US, which went direct to consumer with a $15/month SVOD service. Others, such as CBS and Showtime, soon followed. We also saw some of the most popular sports being made available via apps like Sling.TV (ESPN), MLB.TV, NBA League pass, and NHL Mobile; even the Super Bowl was streamed live on Yahoo!.

Live streaming on mobile devices received a massive boost when Twitter launched Periscope in March 2015 and became one of the most talked about video apps of the year. It’s not surprising that Facebook also added live broadcasting capabilities to its app soon afterwards. And of course Google already offered a somewhat similar option via Hangouts.

But Periscope really took off because of its great user interface. It is also complementary to Twitter, offering both the immediacy and the accessibility required to let anyone cover major news events.

These shifting sands point to the prospect of a growing audience of ‘cord-nevers’ who don’t see a need to subscribe to traditional pay-tv. Many may even choose not to own a TV. According to a recent study commissioned by Paywizard, younger viewers (aged 18-34) are using almost three times as many devices to watch video as their 55+ counterparts.

Bringing mobile to the living room is a revolution waiting to happen. There were a spate of TV device launches in the run up to the 2015 festive period, dominated by Apple TV, and Google continues to push Android TV and Chromecast. The result will be a more fluid TV experience – one in which our mobile devices will work in unison with our iOS or Android devices.

Which brings me to the mobile operator community. We are about to experience a boom in mobile operators entering the TV market. Vodafone Ireland and Vodafone Spain launched services recently, and other countries will follow suit.

Telcos are in a position to launch the TV services of tomorrow with a mixed business model of advertising, subscriptions and transactions. I expect that they will deliver on the promise of personalised, anytime, anywhere OTT TV.

Other telcos like BT in the UK (post the EE acquisition) and AT&T in the US (post the DirecTV acquisition) will also become more active in the mobile TV space. Marrying video with mobile packages and luring customers with free data when streaming video, will have a huge impact on mobile TV usage. And since content will forever be king, we can expect these companies to invest more in premium content to create a real differentiator.

As mobile video grows, discovery is going to become an issue. Users will have too many video apps, especially for short form content like VOX, BuzzFeed, Popsugar, Newsy, FastCompany and others. On the other hand, many of these video producers will look for aggregators to resell their content and give them a cut of the ad revenue.

As a result, we are seeing telcos and MVPDs going into the short-form video business with the launch of mobile TV networks. Apps like Verizon’s go90 and Comcast’s Watchable are hoping to be such aggregators. Spotify, which added some video content last year, is trying to move in that direction as well.

All of the above shows us that advertising will remain a key business model for short form content. We just need to hope that it will not be annihilated by new ad blocking technologies.

For me, probably the most interesting mobile TV player these days is Facebook. After doing a great job in figuring out how to make money off its mobile apps, it is adding more video capabilities. Much of Facebook’s plans for video are unknown, but it’s likely to become a mobile video powerhouse, especially when you consider its reach across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Mobile TV is starting to come of age and many companies are bidding for a piece of the ever-growing pie. The jury is still out on the winners and losers but I expect Facebook will prove to be one to watch.

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