SEOUL — Asian and U.S. execs delivered smart presentations about the future of TV at the Broadcasting Worldwide (BCWW) convention in Seoul.
But when it came to mobile TV, they were blown away Thursday by the speed of developments in South Korea and China.
Suh Young-kil, CEO of TU Media, reported that mobile TV, launched in South Korea less than two years ago, already has more than 7 million subscribers. The free-to-air service using terrestrial transmission (T-DMB) has 6 million users.
TU Media, which is backed by SKT, EchoStar and Samsung, has more than 1.2 million paying subscribers for its satellite-based service (S-DMB). He described forecasts of 16 million Korean users by 2010 as “conservative.”
Wu Chunlei, CEO of Shanghai Dragon New Media, part of the Shanghai Media Group, said China is adding 65 million mobile subscribers per year. He said there are 2.1 million mobile TV users, including 250,000 paid-for subscriptions, at rates as low as $1.60 a month. “(In China) video is the only killer application for 3G so far,” he said.
Mobile TV has quickly become embedded in Korean popular culture. Viewing time now exceeds 65 minutes per day for subscribers, and TV compatibility is a key factor in most people’s choice of cell phone handset.
Suh reported that Korean manufacturers are selling phones capable of receiving both S-DMB and T-DMB services and that in-car devices are being combined with satellite navigation equipment.
After two years, Suh said that TU Media had found that consumers prefer traditional shows and live sports over made-for-mobile content. Primetime viewing hours are very different from those for traditional channels, reflecting commuting times and the role of mobile devices as second TV sets in a household.
Hanaro TV’s Kim Sung-yong said his company was surprised to learn how many women were watching erotic content mid-evening on their cell phones.
“We would expect China to have different consumption patterns to Korea,” Shanghai Dragon’s Wu said.
Market research indicated that 66% of potential customers wanted to watch news and info shows on a mobile phone, with 50% seeking music and 40% wanting movies.
In response Shanghai Dragon has launched its own mobile info channel, with news bought from official sources sliced into 10- to 15-second bites and rolled into five-minute packages.
But he warned of a dearth of other content and skills to develop the market. He described an overkill of “famous brand content” and said that shows that are less well known are difficult to promote.
Cyriac Roeding, exec VP for CBS Mobile, said that the network is learning that viewers migrate from platform to platform throughout the day and that TV, Internet and mobile are all components. He underlined the significance of delivery speed and said the company had developed video alerts.