Virgin Mobile have announced plans to pull the plug on their mobile TV service early next year. The service, in partnership with BT Movio, was launched in a blaze of publicity featuring ex-Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson. Since then, apparently only 10,000 Lobster 700TV handsets have been sold by January 2007 – which put the future of the service into doubt even then.
Virgin Mobile and BT Movio’s service used DMB technology, which in turn relied on bandwidth on GCap Media’s national DAB digital radio multiplex. Although BT’s contract with GCap runs until 9th June 2008, Virgin have advised that they’ll be canning the service shortly after the end of January 2008.
The news comes just weeks after the European Union chose DVB-H (an adaptation of the existing DVB-T terrestrial digital TV technology) as the standard for mobile TV in its member countries. However this is still a broadcast-based one to many solution – and does not, like the Virgin/BT service, provide video on demand services.
Commenting on the news, Bruce Renny from streaming mobile TV experts ROK TV said: “Expectations for the commercial uptake of full-length broadcast TV on mobiles as subscription services are over-optimistic and the demise of Virgin’s mobile TV service reflects that. After all, why pay a subscription fee to receive the same TV content on your mobile that you already get at home? Particularly when people don’t watch TV on mobiles for more than a few minutes at a time.”
“Most mobile TV viewing is for just a few minutes. To be commercially successful, you have to provide a combination of live news, sports updates and video-on-demand made-for-mobile content which is instantly engaging. Simply broadcasting linear TV to mobiles is not the answer.”