UK broadcaster ITV launched a catch-up video on demand application for iPhone, iPod Touch 3rd and 4th generations, iPad and Android devices versions 2.2 and above. The application uses the same brand as its online TV catch-up service ITV Player and is available for free on Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. The mobile catch-up video service is monetised via advertising and only allows for streaming (i.e. no download to own option). The application solely works over WiFi and only features video content for which ITV has the mobile rights for up to seven days after broadcast (in contrast to the 30 day catch-up window on ITV.com).
This is not the first time that ITV has made its content available to mobile devices. In June 2010, during the Football World Cup, it launched a web app which let iPhone users watch ITV1, ITV2 linear simulcasts for free. ITV 1 and ITV 2 simulcasts are also available within several operators' mobile TV packages such as Vodafone's Variety Pack and Orange's Starter Pack. ITV is the first commercial UK broadcaster to launch a catch-up video service on mobile devices.
Despite the disparities of content line-up between the PC and mobile version of the ITV Player, the availability of popular TV series such as Emmerdale and Coronation Street on iOS and Android devices is set to boost mobile video consumption in the UK. IHS Screen Digest predicts that, in the UK, the number of mobile video streams over mobile networks (excluding user generated content) will more than quadruple in the next five years to reach 120m streams in 2015.
However, catch-up video services on portable devices (phones, portable medial players) have a mixed track record in driving content consumption and monetisation. Traditionally they have often struggled to develop into substantial businesses because of content rights issues, a high level of device fragmentation, and the lack of a reliable advertising revenue stream. Nevertheless, portability has always been a key driver for the monetisation of catch-up video content which, so far, has been primarily captured by iTunes as well as services like Netflix. iTunes alone is set to account for almost 25 per cent of online TV revenue in the UK in 2011..For consumption the story is rather different: mobile typically accounts for less than 5 per cent of all BBC iPlayer requests; by contrast in March 2011 Tablets made up 2% of all iPlayer consumption. Consequently while ITV's decision to invest in expanding ITV Player to mobile devices is a clear indication that: 1) mobile is becoming increasingly relevant to a TV channels' business and 2) the mobile content market has reached a level of maturity and scale where monetisation and good quality of service is feasible, the decision to launch an ad funded mobile player also raises a number of questions. The lessons from the iPlayer suggest that in its current guise ITV player is unlikely to generate enough 'eyeballs' to significantly impact ITVs advertising revenue, at least in the near term; while at the same time there may be a tension with ITV's publically stated ambitions to generate a significant portion of its revenue from paid content. The experience of iTunes and Netflix suggests that this sort of device strategy is a key component in getting consumers to pay for content.
Find Out More > IHS Screen Digest Mobile Media Intelligence