How Big Is The Market For Tiny, Mobile TV Ever Going To Get?

Another nice milestone for MobiTV, one of handful of services trying to get Americans to watch TV on their phones: The company says it now has 4 million subscribers to its mobile TV and radio services, which are available via more than 15 carrier networks, including AT&T (T), Sprint Nextel (S), etc.

But that means the company is growing slower: It’s been more than 9 months since MobiTV announced its 3 millionth subscriber; it only took 8 months to get to 3 million (Oct. 22, ’07) from 2 million (Feb. 28, ’07).

MobiTV’s subscriber base should be growning faster, as more people upgrade to phones with faster, 3G network access, and smartphones with bigger screens and user interfaces that are supposed to make it easier to watch video.

So what’s going on? It’s possible that Qualcomm’s similar (QCOM) MediaFlo service, which has been available for Verizon subscribers for a while, and recently launched on AT&T, took a chunk of would-be subscribers.

Or maybe there’s a bigger problem: There just aren’t many people willing to pay for mobile TV. About 4.8 million Americans — 2.1% of the U.S. mobile market — watched programmed TV/video at least once a month on their phones this spring, according to research firm comScore M:Metrics. Meanwhile, more than twice that — 11.7 million subscribers, or 5.2% of the market — watched free video sent by family or friends.

So people may indeed want to watch video on their phones: They just want to choose what they watch, and they don’t want to spend any money on it.

See Also:
Mobile Video: Small, Growing. Will It Ever Take Off?
Major League Baseball’s iPhone App: Mobile TV That Makes Sense
Qualcomm CEO: No One’s Watching Our Mobile TV Service

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