Verizon Wireless (VZ) customers don’t love it. But that’s not stopping AT&T (T) from launching its own video service with Qualcomm’s MediaFLO, with live TV from CBS, Comedy Central, NBC and Fox. It’s another bet that consumers will pay a premium to watch long-form TV and movies on their phones–but that bet has looked like a failed one so far.
AT&T has been talking about launching mobile TV for more than a year; during that time Verizon has been offering its own version of MediaFLO service and the response has been underwhelming. Qualcomm (QCOM) CEO Paul Jacobs in March said the service had been a disappointment, but declined to provide numbers. M:Metric estimated at the time that only 1.5%, or 820,000 Verizon subscribers had watched TV on their phones. In Europe, where several operators offer mobile TV, fewer than 1% subscribe.
AT&T’s service comes with the same catches as Verizon’s. Namely, you’ve got to buy an expensive phone ($200-$300), and subscribe to a data plan for $15/mo. for just TV or $30 if you also want Web browsing. This won’t work on Apple’s iPhone, one expensive product AT&T customers are willing to buy.
Yankee Group says 5% of mobile subscribers are actually willing to pay for mobile TV, but even that limited group is thinking five bucks a month, not the $15 to $30 dreamed of by At&T and Verizon.
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