Linear Mobile Video

There is a question I've wanted to ask strangers for upwards of eight months. I figured after a three-day, reflective weekend it's the perfect time. Does anyone really care that companies are developing the technology that will enable mobile subscribers to receive what is christened "linear mobile video" with crystal-clear image clarity and the seamless channel switching of a typical TV set -- other than, of course, content providers, who will glean incremental licensing fees and/or the ability to generate revenue from advertising as well as the wireless carriers, who hope to rake in from their 224 million U.S. mobile subscriber an additional $10+ monthly.

Two companies, MediaFlo, a subsidiary of cell phone technology firm Qualcomm, and Modeo, owned by Crown Castle International, are offering consumers the opportunity to receive 24/7 channels via their cell phone providers that will include a mix of current, evergreen and time-shifted full-length programming from leading TV brands. Modeo is in test phase with Time Warner Cable and little is known of its menu; however, rival MediaFlo is off and broadcasting through Verizon Wireless in some major DMAs. MediaFlo's content partners include CBS, MTV (live simulcast), Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, ESPN (select live college events), Fox and NBC.

So I asked myself: why should linear mobile video be attractive to consumers who are already paying for so many other services, and in fact, will most probably have these channels available through their pay TV services or free over the air. Do people really want a linear TV option "on the go"? Are live, simultaneous feeds of programming that attracts older people during AM and PM drive times -- mostly news and inane chatter -- stimulating and attractive to an audience that will most likely be the prime target of the carrier? Will convoluted navigational procedures via small keypads enrich the viewing experience or cause consternation as we have witnessed with the cable's industry Byzantine approach to ferreting out and arriving at the desired video on demand content.

Common wisdom suggests mobile and broadband viewing duration is brief at the 3- to 5-minute clip range and longer, depending upon the length of the commute -- drive time is the prime time of mobile viewing. Doesn't on-demand and VCR functionality (pause, fast-forward, rewind) complement that pattern? How 'bout the immense success of slinging media content to the iPod? How many people have the luxury of watching a 30- or 60-minute program without interruption (or the ability to save/pause) on the way to or from their place of employment. What happened to the au currant notion of consumer control, choice and convenience? Won't the articulated frustration expression "I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more" pale by comparison.