October 21, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
FAQ: The lowdown on mobile TV
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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