TV goes mobile as Vodafone signs Sky for content

7 Jun 2006

Vodafone Ireland has done a deal with Sky to provide mobile TV to consumers in the first such commercial service in the country. The service will be available from next week and will be free until September.

In all, 18 channels will be available to view on the mobile, including Sky News, Sky Sports News, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Sky One and Living tv. They will be available to Vodafone live! 3G customers and can be accessed on all 3G handsets. The service will be accessible wherever there is 3G coverage, which according to Vodafone now extends to most urban centres in Ireland.

The channels are divided into three packages. The Sky News and Sport Pack includes: Sky News; Sky Sports News; Discovery Factual; CNN; At the Races (daytime only); National Geographic; and Biography. The Sky Entertainment Pack comprises: Sky One; Sky Movies Mobile; Cartoon Network; Living; Bravo; and Discovery Lifestyle. The third offering, Sky Music Pack, has three channels: Kiss; The Box; and Kerrang. A fourth Vodafone pack also provides review coverage of the UEFA Champions League as well as Eurosport.

According to Vodafone, the channels will be a mix of ‘as live’ broadcasts with others being dedicated ‘made for mobile’ channels that feature regularly updated blocks of programming.

The introductory period ends on 1 September 2006 and from then consumers will be charged €1.99 per week for each of the Mobile TV packs to which they subscribe. Unlimited access to all channels will cost €4.99 per week.

Vodafone now has more than 237,000 customers using 3G. It claimed that Irish customers have downloaded 1.3 million videos and almost 500,000 music tracks over the past year, which the company said showed there was demand for such services.

A new report from Portio Research in the UK would appear to support this, with more than 50pc of mobile users saying they are interested in mobile TV and are prepared to pay on average €10 for ‘all you can eat TV’.

“It is clear that mobile TV will create a market for more TV viewing in addition to that at home, delivering the notion of ‘TV snacking’ whilst on the move,” the company said. News and weather would appeal to professionals commuting to work, with younger age groups interested in celebrity gossip and game show updates, the firm said. Music videos suit the teenage market and sports fans have shown interest in catching clips when they can. “All the evidence suggests that even at conservative estimates the market potential is huge,” Portio said.

The mobile phone maker Nokia conducted pilot trials in Finland, the UK, France and Spain earlier this year and found that in the UK 83pc of participants were satisfied with the service and 76pc said they would take it up within 12 months. In France, 68pc said they would pay for mobile TV services and 55pc in Spain were willing to do so.

By Gordon Smith