This is all why, try as they might, pushing video to your phone, shoes, and sunglasses isn’t ever going to see the success that mobile audio has. Sure, the idea of people paying you to watch your newest show anytime they have a couple extra few minutes sounds fantastic from a revenue generation point of view. The problem is, getting people to pay to watch your video on their 100″ plasma is hard enough. Trying to get them to pay you to watch it on their 3″ phone screen (in the best of cases) is just a failed idea from the get go.
As a video content creator myself, I understand the attraction of the business model, but it just doesn’t fit the way people use video. It is one of those famous ‘solutions looking for a problem.’ It is the video content industry looking at success of the Internet and mobile phones, and saying “how can we get in on that?” Thing is, there is no guarantee you can get in on it. Just because something is big and popular, doesn’t mean that every other business can get a piece of it, as many supermarket chains found out when they tried to open their web grocery stores. Some products are just better suited to some environments.
None of this is to say that there is no room at all for mobile, downloadable, digital video on portable devices, but it is always going to be an extra feature; something that people might do once and a while during lunch because they decided they didn’t have time to do more than have Cup-O-Soup at their desk. It is never going to see even the kind of success digital audio has, which in itself is still only a small portion of the music world.
You aren’t going to see a multi-billion dollar Video Ringtone market spring up. Everyone at the gym isn’t going to be carrying around their own TV they watch shows on while they work out. People aren’t going to be driving down the street watching sitcoms on their way to the office. At best mobile video might hope to be a viable alternative to other niche forms of portable entertainment like audio books, but I doubt it will ever be as big a hit as portable audio or or even handheld gaming, no matter how much phone manufacturers and network providers try to hype it.
The sooner video content producers understand that they can’t just make a carbon copy of the boom in digital audio, the sooner they will start setting realistic expectations, and getting a real feel for where the market lies. Phone network providers are starting to understand this, and services like Digital Multimedia Broadcasting, Seg1 and MediaFLO provide an infrastructure to try and find new ways to experiment with mobile video that might better fit its niche, but none of that matters until the phone manufacturers and content providers understand that it isn’t just an issue of putting a bigger screen on the phone, and giving users a place to buy content. You can’t just sell it like it was music, and expect it to be as successful.
If anyone ever wants mobile video to be anything more than “oh, and it plays video too” in a sales pitch, it is going to require an entire strategy for how to make the feature appeal to users in a way that adds actual value. Unlike audio features, you can’t just tack on the feature and expect it to move a few more phones.
It will be interesting to see how it develops, but it is going to require something more sophisticated than just sticking software on the phone that can play a video file.