In my own mind, I’ve been questioning whether paid content on mobile would work any better than on the Web.
ESPN’s exit from the realm of mobile service provider isn’t a spot-on repudiation the paid-content model on mobile, but it isn’t a good sign. The biggest problem for ESPN was their fundamental misunderstanding of how hard it is to get people to switch service providers (family plans, contracts that are expensive to cancel, etc.). While the barriers were big, you have to wonder if content is truly king, especially sports content, why more people weren’t willing to switch?
I recently started a new service with SprintPCS and a Treo700. This is my first experience with video on mobile, and I’ve got to say: It rocks. My other observation is that there is so much free video content on my phone that I’m not really tempted to try any of the paid services. What I get for free is quick hits of news, sports and entertainment, and that’s all I really need on mobile. It’s great for us information junkies who need to kill a few minutes here and there, in this or that line, etc. I can’t see spending the time to watch movies or TV shows on it, though. It’s not the small screen that’s the problem. It’s just that I can’t see using it for a primary entertainment source. There are better options when you have time to make a commitment to a show.
Paid content on mobile may work yet, and maybe it’s working better than I imagine (I have no data), but I’m skeptical.
But mark this: mobile video is here to stay. I’m sold on its viability for content delivery, if it’s the right content.