Mobile TV May Change Channel

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Less than six months after its commercial launch, mobile TV vendor MediaFLO USA is in the midst of an executive shuffle.

Dan Novak, who has been the public face of MediaFLO at trade shows and other industry events, now is playing a key role in corporate marketing at MediaFLO’s parent company, Qualcomm. He no longer has a direct role at MediaFLO.

As VP of programming and advertising at MediaFLO, Novak had been spearheading Qualcomm’s push into the broadcast mobile TV space by focusing on content deals and advertising opportunities with programmers and cable and TV networks.

Many network executives worked closely with Novak as he brokered deals to bring their programming on board.

A MediaFLO spokeswoman confirmed Novak’s departure and subsequent move to the parent company.

Mike Bailey, MediaFLO vice president of programming, and Michael Boyd, MediaFLO VP of licensing and research, are filling the roles Novak left behind, the spokeswoman added.

The change comes as entertainment insiders are beginning to privately question the model MediaFLO has pursued thus far. Most agree it’s still too early to talk about the future of MediaFLO, which is only available via Verizon Wireless; they say it’s more important to build awareness with consumers and focus on getting more eyeballs glued to the small screen. But few believe the eight-channel lineup, which is purely live and rebroadcast TV, is enough to drive the promised explosion of mobile TV into more hands.

The platform is poised to become more diverse, however, as MediaFLO looks to launch clipcasting and datacasting services. The company has talked about the technology as an evolutionary step toward a hybrid offering between live broadcast TV and on-demand programming that, in addition to video, would include simple information such as stocks, weather and sports updates.

Most agree that on-demand content would substantially increase the scope of MediaFLO’s reach, but at this point it appears equally important for MediaFLO to glean positive first impressions from early users.

Satisfied Customers

Indeed, the infant mobile TV market can be proud of its accomplishments to date; a survey done by the Mobile Entertainment Forum found that mobile TV has the highest satisfaction rate of mobile data applications for Americans, at 37 percent. However, that service was one of the least familiar applications to survey respondents.

Most subscribers to the MediaFLO-powered service consistently talk about the “wow” factor they get when showing the service to others. But networks, MediaFLO and others clearly want the market to move beyond that initial phenomenon. Branding could be partially to blame for some of the confusion. The service is called Vcast Mobile TV on Verizon Wireless; AT&T Mobility has yet to announce what it will label the service when it launches later this year; and MediaFLO is striving for its own brand name awareness with sponsorship deals and the like. And that doesn’t even take into account the other mobile TV services.

MediaFLO does not release figures on the number of users, uptake or churn. And the networks delivering programming on the service also are left in the dark. The networks do get reports on the overall number of viewers; they say the numbers they’re seeing are in line with other mobile TV services in the market, but none would disclose specifics.

Verizon Wireless and MediaFLO declined to answer questions about usage and turnover, and each directed queries to the other company for more information.

“I can confirm that customers are enjoying Verizon Wireless Vcast TV and we are pleased with the customer response as the service continues to be introduced in markets throughout the country,” Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney wrote in response to questions. Any other information about their products is considered confidential, she added.

M:Metrics tracks mobile video usage, but admits respondents are still confused between broadcast and programmed video, making specific data on broadcast mobile TV usage tough to discern. Marketwide figures on average mobile video usage, however, showed a relative spike in April across all viewing categories.


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