New study questions mobile TV and music hype

Study could throw cold water on mobile carriers' hopes that people will spend big on mobile music downloads and TV.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
Americans may not be as enamored by the idea of watching TV and listening to music on their cell phones as mobile carriers had hoped.

According to a survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, about 75 percent of roughly 1,000 people polled said they had no interest in watching TV on their cell phones. And about 70 percent said they didn't see themselves using their cell phones for musical entertainment.

The news could come as a blow to mobile operators, which have already spent billions of dollars upgrading their networks to accommodate new data services such as video and music downloads. Three of the largest cellular operators in the U.S., Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, have already launched video services. Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless also have introduced music download services. And Cingular supports Apple Computer's iTunes service on some of its phones.

Even handset maker Nokia, which is investing in a new technology called DVB-H, is optimistic that people will spend money on watching TV on their phones.

But judging from the results of this survey and others like it, consumers aren't as excited about the new services as the carriers may have hoped. Linda Barrabee, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group, said that there was a similar response to a survey her research firm conducted last July.

"I think it's really hard for most people to imagine what the experience of mobile TV would even be," she said. "Right now, most people are using phones that aren't even 3G (third generation) compatible. I think they'll have to see how it can really work and fit into their lives before they can really judge whether they want it."

Barrabee and some other analysts suspect that early adopters of new mobile services will likely be people 24 years of age and younger. This market is roughly 20 percent of the 206 million cell phone users in the U.S., but young people tend to be the heaviest users of text messaging and ring-tone downloads, according to The Yankee Group's research. Only about 15 percent of the respondents in the RBC survey were between the ages of 21 and 29. No one younger than 21 years of age participated in the survey.