June 2, 2010
5:20 PM -- In addition to pitting Light Reading's global readers against one another, the World Cup is proving to be an important event for both the wireless operators and the mobile TV providers as well. (See Spain Leads LR World Cup Poll, Reader Poll: Who Will Win the World Cup?, World Cup Fever, LR Predicts World Cup Winner and 2010 World Cup Predictions.)
By "important" I mean it could be a make-or-break event for both parties, as live events tend to drive a lot of network-taxing mobile TV traffic. In fact, live events, especially sporting events, are one of the few things that really get consumers across the globe excited about mobile TV. (See Will Carriers Endorse BitBop? and Mobile TV Meandered at The Cable Show .)
The World Cup is an especially good test bed for the service because of the global audience it attracts. It’s not a huge deal in the US, but the event does attract a fanatical following in other parts of the world. With so many different time zones and geographies tuning in, mobile TV providers are pitching it as the perfect opportunity to turn to the mobile phone.
Both Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and MobiTV Inc. are prepping for the World Cup with plans to cover the series with dedicated World Cup channels. Qualcomm’s FLO TV tapped midfielder Landon Donovan, the US's all-time leading goal scorer with 42 goals, to promote its coverage, which can be accessed on its own handheld devices, in-car FLO TV receivers, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) mobile TV phones.
Verizon Wireless V Cast and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) TV will carry 56 of the 64 games through their TV services.
MobiTV has also seen evidence of the live-event theory time and time again. The streaming TV service, which claims nearly 10 million subscribers in the US, says its biggest viewership days were on Michael Jackson’s funeral, President Obama’s inauguration, and the CBS Sports March Madness tournament. The NBA playoffs also saw more than twice as many people tuning in as compared to non-game days.
According to the company, the World Cup will be the biggest mobile TV driver yet. For it and other vendors like it, the big question will be whether they can translate this influx of one-time viewers into recurring subscribers.
Of course, this also presents a different and rather formidable challenge for the wireless operators, which will be greeted with an influx of data usage on 64 different occasions. Streaming content is one of the most data-heavy activities a user can engage in, and the operators have shown in the past they can’t always handle it. (See 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps, Cisco: Video Traffic Set to Dominate Internet, and AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps.)
This makes the World Cup especially interesting (if you’re a tech nerd or not a soccer fan). It will produce a global winner, but it will also determine if mobile TV is a winner. If it is, the World Cup could also produce a winner in terms of what wireless operators are ready to support it.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile
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