October 21, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

FAQ: The lowdown on mobile TV

Television junkies looking for highlights of the latest game or a rundown of what happened on their favorite television show don't have to look any further than their mobile phones.

Mobile TV, or television and video adapted for the small screen of cell phones and personal digital assistants, is being hyped as the next big moneymaker for mobile phone operators. Services are already gaining popularity in Asia and Europe. And now U.S. operators are getting into the game with services of their own.

Entertainment giants, such as MTV Networks, News Corp.'s Fox, and the Walt Disney Company are busy re-editing shows and creating new content for the small screen. Like the cell phone operators, they too see big bucks in selling TV on the go.

Apple's recent announcement of a video iPod has gotten more people talking about mobile TV. Apple has also added music videos and popular TV shows such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" to iTunes to its list of download offerings.

But with all the hype surrounding these new services, it's hard to tell who is offering what and whether or not mobile TV will actually become a big deal here in the U.S. CNET News.com has answered some basic questions to offer a little clarity on the subject.

What's the difference between live or streaming TV and on-demand TV?
Mobile TV comes in two distinct flavors: live TV, which is video streamed live across the network directly to phones, and edited clips, which are produced and offered on demand to subscribers.

Live mobile TV is similar to television you'd watch at home via cable or satellite. Channels such as MSNBC or CNN broadcast live over the cell phone network, and viewers tune into certain channels to view it.

On-demand TV comes as packaged video clips. Some of the clips are re-edited versions of existing TV shows, and others are specially created content for the mobile network.

For example, NBC Mobile produces short clips from "The Today Show" and other NBC programs and packages them together. News Corp., which owns Twentieth Century Fox Television, has edited its reality show "The Simple Life" for mobile viewing. Sports leagues, like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, put together one to two-minute highlights for mobile viewers.

In addition to repackaging existing programs, some companies are also creating new content for the tiny screen. News Corp.'s Fox has produced several "mobisodes" or serials: "Sunset Hotel," "Love and Hate," and "24: Conspiracy". MTV Networks is developing an animated series called "Samurai Love God."

Who offers mobile TV service?
The three big cell phone companies in the U.S.--Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless--offer mobile TV services. Several regional cell phone carriers, such as Midwest Wireless based in Minnesota and Western Wireless in Washington state, also offer mobile TV.

Several overseas carriers also offer service. SK Telecom in South Korea and NTT DoCoMo in Japan have been at the forefront of developing mobile TV technology. Orange and O2 in the United Kingdom are two other examples. And the three major wireless carriers in Canada--Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, and Telus--offer TV for mobile devices.

How do the mobile TV services in the U.S. differ from each other? And how much do they cost?
Verizon Wireless offers a service called V Cast over its EV-DO wireless network for $15 per month. The subscription includes 300 channels of packaged video clips between one and four minutes in length. Channels include sports, weather, news, and concert videos. Users can also access sports highlights from the NBA and Nascar for between $1 and $2 per viewing. Verizon does not offer live TV.

Sprint offers a total of 31 different channels. Its Sprint TV includes packaged video clips, and Sprint TV Live includes live TV clips. The company also offers premium channels. It gets all of the content for Sprint TV and Sprint TV Live from MobiTV, a company that specializes in taking television feeds and sending them over cellular networks. Subscribers can access video on its new EV-DO network or on the existing Sprint PCS network. The quality is better over the EV-DO network.

Sprint TV and Sprint TV Live each cost $9.99 per month. Additional premium channels are offered for between $3.95 and $9.99 per month. In order to access any of the TV channels, customers must also subscribe to one of Sprint's data plans. The basic plan costs $10 per month. A special Sprint Vision multimedia plan costs $20 per month and includes Sprint TV.

Cingular Wireless doesn't offer any packaged video clips. But it offers

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5 comments

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It 's a total flop in Israel.
A service of this type exists in Israel and
gets no attention whatsoever. Who wants to watch the TV on such a tiny screen ? A year after the introduction of 3G services and heavy campaigns all over the media, only 1 percent of cellular subscribers bought those sets even though they are not expensive at all ! Hype, Hype, Hype..
Posted by bar86 (26 comments )
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Small Screens are a Non Starter
You can add solid Narrowband (EV-DO and CIngular) bandwidth and special features and have the greates small video content around but until you increase the screen size you are going to have limited success using Cell Phones to watch and interact with these video programs. Size does counts folks.
Now if you could get the carriers to quit fearing the PDA and allow the vendors to make these devices with large screens/WiFi/Bluetooth and cellphone access in sufficient volume you would have a great package. They also need to quit fearing the power of the emerging WiFi Mesh Networks (and its VoWLAN capabilities) being deployed in the USA and incorporate it into their plans, we (local Service providers) might be able to deliver a successful product.

Jacomo
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
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Oh no more mobile grunge!
Oh well, since a vast majority of programs, that make it to TV are mediocre grunge, and a majority of TV news has now degenerated to the point of becoming nothing better than propaganda since the US Presidential election 2000(alas on count back jnr didn't have the legal majority, but won on the blitzkrieg of the propaganda storm of his creation, forcing the real winners to capitulate and again in '03 Iraq WMD Media embeddded Military Campaign is but one of the many classic examples of that genre, and many more exist, where the big four Media Combines routinely & deliberately filters and sanitizes the news at the behest of anonymous unelected government officials, prior to the release to the masses) Oh, well, little wonder why it is unpopular, for who indeed wants to view the mobile version of this grunge on a 2" screen, when you can view it in all it's glory on your 100" plus video display unit!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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Orb.com missing...
Interesting article however I believe you missed inclusion of the streaming of live and recorded TV via the free orb.com service.
Posted by dovad (5 comments )
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anyone doing it themselves?
just curious..

is anyone else out there attempting to stream their own TV/Video to their cellphone??

i'm still working on the process but am getting very close!
i'm using Darwin Streaming Server, Quicktime, and a Sony W800i cellphone...

too bad T-Mobile's networks are so slow and limited in bandwidth....
Posted by seamonkey420 (72 comments )
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