Mobile TV fans often tell us to look at Asia for inspiration: Look, people watching lots of video on their phones! But no one’s getting rich off it yet, according to the Wall Street Journal, which profiles the popular — but financially stunted — mobile video industry there:
…So far, mobile video hasn’t produced big revenue gains for its providers. The free DMB signals from the country’s four main TV broadcasters draw the most viewers, yet none of these ad-supported services is profitable. Nor are the pay services that offer cable-like menus of channels in either DMB or 3G for $10 to $30 a month, nor 3G pay-per-use options, which cost about 35 cents plus data charges — generally about $10 a day. Some people find early on that those get to be quite expensive and quickly cut back their usage.
Here in the U.S., mobile video is still a tiny, niche industry. Around 1% of U.S. wireless subscribers watch mobile TV, according to JupiterResearch, and consumer interest has dropped substantially in the last two years.
We think there are some applications for mobile video — short, free clips, like those Google’s (GOOG) YouTube offers on Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, for example. Or perhaps some live sports coverage. But we’re sceptical that most people will want to watch full-length TV shows or movies on their phones, or pay extra for mobile TV subscriptions.