Net negative – the mobile World Cup experience

The 2006 World Cup in Germany was seen for a long time as a potential watershed for mobile data usage and a great way to drive momentum around mobile TV in particular. As the event drew closer, the industry became more realistic in its expectations: broadcast mobile TV was still barely out of the pilot stages in most major markets and patchy 3G coverage, high subscription costs and poor viewing quality were limiting the uptake of streamed services.

However, right up until the opening of the competition, some research companies were still bullish on the revenue prospects. Informa T&M predicted USD 300m revenues from mobile TV services during the World Cup.

With the winners decided on the field, we can take a somewhat more realistic view of users’ experiences with mobile data during the competition. An NOP poll of UK subscribers (comissioned by Olista) found 29 percent of people who used a World Cup service were ‘first time’ data users, persuaded to experiment by their desire to keep up-to-date with events in Germany. Clearly the industry’s marketing was persuading people to try new applications.

The same survey found that 44 percent of customers would not use the service again.

Let’s recap those figures. 29 percent of the total user base were trying something new. 44 percent of the total (i.e. both new and experienced mobile data users) said they would never do so again.

Far from building momentum around mobile data, these figures would suggest the net result of the World Cup has been to generate a negative user experience among mobile subscribers. It is one thing for the industry to throw out revenue predictions for nascent services, but who is counting the cost of the resulting customer dissatisfaction?

Separate research from Argogroup found considerable inconsistency in the user experience provided by World Cup services. In England’s first game against Paraguay, 3 was far and away the best performer, delivering a video clip of Beckham’s free kick within 90 seconds. T-Mobile followed 90 seconds later with a text alert, while one operator took twice as long (over 6 minutes) to provide news of the incident. Another operator failed altogether because the testers were unable to access the registration site.

The NOP study produced some other interesting figures. 11 percent of customers said they were interested in mobile TV, some way behind text alerts (22 percent), video clips (16 percent) and picture messages (also 16 percent). There is a pattern here – asynchronous (i.e. on-demand) services are considerably more popular with users.

This comes back to some of the most basic usage requirements for accessing data while mobile: this is an environment where interactions are measured in seconds, rather than the immersive minutes spent in from of the TV or desktop. Mobile users simply don’t have the time or correct conditions to consume services which demand their constant attention.

Cost was also a major consideration among the users surveyed by NOP. 49 percent were dissatisified with the cost. This can be interpretted one of two ways: either they were too expensive or the users didn’t perceive there to be enough value in what they were receiving. This value equation has to be weighed in the context of services available to users in mediums other than mobile.

Going back to Argogroup study, the company used its ‘Mean Opinion Score’ methodology to arrive at a rating between 1 and 5 (where 1 is lowest perceived quality, and 5 is the highest perceived quality) for video content delivered to a desktop PC from the BBC’s streaming site and the mobile services offered by 3 and T-Mobile. The quality of the BBC and 3 service was broadly comparable, at about 3.1. However, users of the 3 service were paying about GBP 2 per Mb of data downloaded, while the BBC service was free. The T-Mobile offering was of such poor quality the ball couldn’t be seen even when it stationary.

After digesting all of these data, my conclusion is that operators are trying to derive revenue from the wrong services. Why try to battle against the superior user experience of watching a World Cup game on a big screen TV by persuaing customers to squint at mobile display? Instead, the mobile should serve as a channel for complimentary, communication-driven services.

Community betting, for example, would be an ideal use of the unique capabilities of a mobile. Revenue could be derived from enabling punters to bet with each other as they watch the game unfold on a decent screen. Player information and game data. Television commentators have access to a wealth of historical and live information about the players and the game, all of which could be easily presented on the mobile device.

The user experience will continue to dissappoint while the mobile industry continues in its attempts to re-create other channels in a sub-optimal environment. Revenue growth and satisfied customers will come from creative services which are uniquely enabled by the characteristics of mobile networks and devices.

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  1. 3
    Tuomas Kumpula

    So true, I’ve been wondering a while why everybody wants to reduce the TV to minisize pixell soup. Mobile is and ideal second channel for interactivity, value added services and community. Not many have internet PC with them while watching TV, but they do play with their phones while watching telly.

    Just put some programme related clever services there that complement the TV experience – not reproduce it with absolute low quality.

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