"Every member of the mobile video value chain acknowledges that advertising will play a crucial role in developing the channel into a significant consumer service," says eMarketer Senior Analyst John du Pre Gauntt and the author of the new Mobile TV and Video: Big Dreams for the Smallest Screen report. "Unfortunately, nobody is quite sure exactly sure what that means."

Everyone agrees, however, that there is a demand for the service — and it’s growing.

eMarketer forecasts that the total number of mobile TV and video subscribers globally will rise from 40 million in 2006 to over 750 million in 2011.

At the same time, worldwide subscription revenues will go up from almost $6 million to nearly $200 million.

Marketers need to understand some of the basic differences between mobile video platforms in order to decide which one works best for their near- and long-term goals.

"The key difference revolves around the ideas of unicast and broadcast," says Mr. Gauntt. "These two terms not only point to technical differences, they have a lot to do with how the business models are constructed."

Today’s 3G networks are predominately unicast, meaning that if subscribers want to see something on their handsets, the content is delivered point-to-point between a content/ad server and the individual handset. Users browse a library of video clips and click to download for video play on the phone. If mobile users subscribe to a service like MobiTV, they will pull in a stream instead of a file. However, it is still a point-to-point communication model.

"The rub comes if suddenly 300,000 users want to see that winning football goal at the same time," says Mr. Gauntt. "Then the operator needs to manage 300,000 video clips/streams of the same content at the same time."

To date, 3G networks are good at handling video clips if only because the ratio of video users to overall capacity is still rather low. But it is clear that if mobile video/TV gets close to mass-market status then the inherent inefficiencies of serving up unicast video content will start to bite.

As well as between platforms, there are differences among users.

"It’s a mistake for marketers to assume there is some universal attraction or repulsion among users to the idea of watching video or television on a mobile phone," says Mr. Gauntt.

A 2006 Nokia survey revealed wide differences in preferences across populations to watching TV on the phone, such as the difference between the US (8% will watch TV on their phones) and Brazil (29%).

"Regardless of future intentions by consumers whether or not to watch mobile video content, it is clear that penetration will largely track that of 3G in general," says Mr. Gauntt. "There is no significant mobile TV service that runs on older technologies, so the general rate of 3G penetration has a direct bearing on the course of the mobile video/TV market."

Via eMarketer