Vodafone launches global mobile TV offering

Vodafone launches new global mobile TV channel across its huge international network.

In one of the biggest moves yet to push new mobile TV services to a global audience, Vodafone Group will begin this month to offer a mix of world TV brands, European sports coverage and entertainment programs across its international markets.

Under its new global mobile TV channel offering, Vodafone will provide popular programs that are easy to view on small mobile phone screens, the operator said Tuesday.

The programs will be available as a video stream or download through Vodafone's live! portal. Customers will need 3G (third-generation) handsets.

Pricing information was not immediately available.

Research conducted by Vodafone suggests that customers want to view on their mobile phones many of the same programs they watch on their televisions at home, the operator said.

The globally secured content will complement domestic mobile TV offerings already available in eight Vodafone markets: Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the U.K. and New Zealand, Vodafone said.

The programs include the popular "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under" HBO series, as well as Eurosport, UEFA Champions League soccer, Discovery and MTV.

Availability, packaging and programming will vary according to market.

Vodafone owns stakes in operators in 27 countries and has partnerships with network operators in an additional 27 countries. The operator claims a customer base of more than 171 million.

Rival Orange is also actively promoting mobile TV, having announced earlier this year plans to reach 1 million active TV users by the end of 2006.

How to price mobile TV, however, seems to be a question many operators have yet to answer. Most mobile TV offers currently available in Europe are free in an effort to create interest.

The three pricing models for mobile TV at present are free, subscription or pay-as-you-use, according to a pricing report on mobile TV written by Bena Roberts, wireless analyst with Current Analysis. All these models have flaws, according to Roberts.

"The economics of free mobile TV don't add up and the strategy is a short-term one to proliferate use," she wrote. "Monthly subscriptions for mobile TV mirror pay-TV charges and consumers find the number of monthly subscriptions and bundles confusing. Pay-as-you-use subscriptions enable users to experience a flavor of mobile TV on demand, but there is always the fear of runaway bills."

A mobile TV pricing strategy that is flexible and offers users choice or "free" viewing minutes in the monthly bundle is the best way of increasing dependency on mobile TV and driving uptake in the future, Roberts wrote in the report.

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