Mobile TV’s Messed-Up Marketing

For reasons unbeknownst to me (okay, almost certainly hoping I’d say nice things about their phone and service), Sprint bestowed on me a freebie phone some time back, as well as a full-service package of voice, video, and data. I’ve cheerfully taken advantage of having a second mobile phone — it comes in useful when in the car on long conference calls and needing to order take-out pizza — but I have to confess that one aspect of it has surprised me.

It’s this: I like mobile TV. The funny things are two: a) I don’t watch much stationary TV; and b) I’ve always been a skeptic on mobile TV. I thought people wouldn’t watch it on small screens, and figured that, for the price, you’d never convince the youth demographic to ante up.

I was wrong, sort of. I think they have the marketing message all screwed up on this stuff. The real demographic is the Blackberry financial demographic, the people that launched that device into the stratosphere because they couldn’t bear to be disconnected and were willing to pay for the privilege.

Similarly with mobile TV, the killer app is Bloomberg TV. When I’m in queues, some elevators, or trapped in SoCal traffic, I often flip open the phone and put on Bloomberg TV. It’s great to be able to watch (or just listen to) programming in realtime wherever I am, and it starts to feel … almost necessary. I can easily imagine people in the financial services sector deciding that such stuff was necessary, and it rapidly becoming normal to see mobile Wall Street-ers watching Bloomberg, CNBC, and corporate events on their phones. And guess what: These people can afford the stiff $50/month in extra fees for TV.


Of course, all of this begs two questions:

  1. Am I only saying this because Sprint gave me the phone?
  2. Am I going to pay for this when the freebie period runs out?

In order, Sort Of and No. I would never have paid for this service just to see if I’d like it, so in that sense I’m in Sprint’s pocket on this issue. But are my comments about mobile TV Sprint-specific? No. Most carriers have mobile TV offerings, and my endorsement of Sprint’s approach is zip. Matter of fact, the interface on the Samsung phone they gave me drives me mad. It probably contributes to auto accidents all over the U.S.

To the second point, would I pay for the service? No. I need more information stimulii like I need a hole in my head. It doesn’t meant that others in financial services won’t feel differently, but not me, thanks.


  1. Franklin Stubbs says:

    Nassim Taleb: “When I see an investor checking quotes on his palm pilot, I smile and smile.”

  2. Andy F. says:

    I don’t know why company X gave me new product Y — I would have thought I would have little need for it. But surprisingly, service Z (which is only $XX/month!) is a killer app. Upwardly-mobile financial services employees will love this product!
    And check out my last post on the success of viral marketing…
    Kidding aside, I would have thought the ability to listen the Bloomberg TV/CNBC would have the most utility. Talking heads and low resolution graphics would just be sucking away battery, and be a little distracting in traffic.

  3. Right, bought and paid for — that’s me. I can barely remember to say indifferently nice things about employers. Saying nice things about people letting me trial stuff is beyond my ken.
    Wrt TV versus TV-as-radio, that’s closer to how I use the thing, especially in cars. I turn it on and let TV drone away like a radio.

  4. If you want finance people really interested make the phones capable of offering Level II quotes.

  5. Now that I agree with. The absence of truly realtime anything to phones, other than emails, is a huge opportunity.

  6. Paul I choose: Option 3:
    You are saying this because you are one the few people outside of Wall St. who is addicted to Bloomberg TV.
    Easy market to get to: just wall-to-wall it on Bloomberg.
    This cracks me up: “I need more information stimulii like I need a hole in my head.”
    Dude – that is your core competency. You are the king of many sources!