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Unexploited potential in Korean mobile TV market

Posted: November 13th, 2007, by Yunho Chung

Many people from all over the world claim that Korea is the most strong player in Mobile TV. True. But by what means?

If we look at the numbers of who use mobile TV in Korea, the answer is ‘YES’. (Now more than 7 million people watch mobile TV in Korea). From the point of profitable business, Korea still has long way to go. Despite the fact that mobile TV exists for more than two years in Korea, specific conditions of the Korean market hinder its development to full potential.

One simple explanation for this can be the putting ‘Avoidable Efforts’. For example in Korea MNOs such as SK Telecom are competing against broadcasting companies such as KBS, MBC, SBS and more. This results not only in two competing standards and revenue models the subscription based S-DMB vs. the advertisement based T-DMB but also in the fact that some contents are only available for one of the respective standards. (Unfortunately Korean Regulatory bodies are divided to two entity, Telecom Committee and Broadcasting Committee. Due to this current condition, each side are making strong tension on the ownership of ‘Killer Contents. We will try to elaborate this during our forthcoming report on ‘Mobile TV’.)

Secondly SK Telecom nowadays is not sure which standard it should support in the future, either S-DMB or HSDPA or another new technology standard such as Mobile Wimax (which is known in Korea as WiBro). Despite a solid user base and revenues S-DMB is quite far away from reaching break even. So MNOs should wisely decide how they can optimize their products Portfolio using different technology standard in order to make the best use of Mobile TV. Actually Mobile TV has very broad definition, and from the customer perspective they do not care what standard they use say DMB, WiBro, HSDPA, Streaming Technology. It is all about providing the most desirable customer experience to the customers.

Another reason why mobile TV is not more successful than now in Korea is Koreans’ affinity to technology and gadgets. On the one hand one could argue that mobile TV is popular in Korea because of this affinity but on the other hand there are various substitutes which can satisfy similar needs. For example we have so called portable media players (PMP), which are comparable to a very small portable PC. People use these PMPs to watch TV programs they have recorded the day before on their HDD drive. So while some factors such as PMP players may not be applicable to Western markets, MNOs and broadcasters should try to avoid cannibalization and ruinous competition in order to fully exploit opportunities in mobile TV business.

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3 Responses to Unexploited potential in Korean mobile TV market

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