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Smart launches mobile TV service

For less than the monthly subscription fee of a cable TV connection, you can now watch digital TV anytime and anywhere on compatible mobile phones.

Smart Telecommunications Inc. and 360media launched on Tuesday myTV, a service that allows people to view high-quality TV broadcasts on their phones. The quality of the video is really great, it’s better than the quality of the SkyCable feed, on a bad day, to the unit next to my newsroom cubicle.

mobile tv MYTV. CNN as viewed on a Nokia N92 unit during the Cebu demonstration of Smart’s mobile TV service. Click on photo to enlarge. (Photo by Sun.Star’s Ruel Rosello)

Unlike the current prevalent video streaming and downloading service, myTV does not use the cellular network to transmit the video. It is broadcast, similar to how regular TV receives images via an antennae. MyTV uses the Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld or DVB-H platform for broadcasting.

For P488 a month, Smart subscribers can view CNN, MTV Philippines, Cartoon Network, National Geographic, Pinoy Box Office, History Channel, Solar Sports, Basketball TV, ETC, and Jack TV.

“This is an important milestone…TV has been a sedentary experience tied down to homes, hotels, offices…myTV unchains Philippine TV and sets it free,” Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno said during the launch.

Nazareno said the service is “a powerful demonstration how media and telecoms can deliver new content to the public.”

Orlando Vea, president and chief executive officer of 360media, said the service will bring “disruptive change” to Philippine TV. But, he said, conventional TV “will still be a fixture” and that the service will “stretch viewing time even more.”

Raymund Miranda, 360media managing director for mobile TV, said the current offering is still the first phase and that more channels will be added later. When asked, he said they may keep the price as is even as they add more channels. During the demonstration for Cebu journalists a few months back, Miranda told me technical limitations will place the channels at less than 20. I wasn’t able to get the chance to ask him again about this during the launch.

Danilo Mojica, head of Smart’s wireless consumer division, said the service will spur people to upgrade their handsets to move to the new technology. He said they have aggressive “subscriber acquisition” target, projecting 60,000 to 70,000 users in the coming months.

Officials said the Smart video streaming service will continue in parallel with myTV. Vea said phone users can watch shows on myTV but “if you missed shows, you can go to streaming 3G service.” The two services, he said, are “very complementary.”

While myTV is touted as a personal TV experience, studies during their trials showed that 46% watched myTV “in a shared environment,” said Miranda. Miranda said he once saw five or six people gathered around one myTV device, cheering on Manny Pacquiao in his most recent fight.

Miranda said that with the service, “there is no more prime time” because people can now watch shows whenever they want to. I don’t have access to their studies during the test phase but I think commute hours can become the new “mobile” prime time, if the service takes off.

MyTV will initially be available in Mega Manila, Metro Cebu, Davao, Tagaytay, Batangas, and Baguio City. Smart said that Boracay and Cagayan de Oro will soon be covered.

The service will be free until Aug. 31 to give subscribers a chance to try it out. MyTV can be accessed using compatible handsets such as the N92 and the coming N77. The service package is available to both post-paid and pre-paid Smart subscribers. Pre-paid subscribers need only to maintain a P1 airtime load and P488 for the the monthly subscription.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.