MobiTV’s IPO filing: Not the mobile TV bet I’d make
MobiTV, one of the mobile video pioneers, recently filed for an IPO. It’s not a lovely picture.
- Three customers — Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile — represent the “substantial majority” of its business. Sprint, in particular, is more than half of its revenue.
- It’s not growing very fast. Revenue for 2010 was $67 million, up 7% from 2009. Revenue for the first 6 months of 2011 was $37 million, up 17% from the first 6 months of 2011. That’s an acceleration, perhaps, but still slow considering overall growth in mobile. (Verizon Wireless data revenue was up 22% year-over-year in Q2, for comparison.)
- It’s still losing quite a bit of money. MobiTV lost $8 million in the first 6 months of 2011 and $15 million last year.
The biggest problem is that smartphone platforms like Apple’s iOS and Google Android have given content owners easy and powerful capabilities to stream live and on-demand video directly to consumers, and even charge them for it, without going through a middleman like MobiTV.
Major League Baseball, CNN, ESPN, and various cable companies and TV networks have created apps with live video, and many are great. (Some are even free.) Consumers don’t need to get their mobile video fix from MobiTV, and with good developer tools available, content owners don’t need to use MobiTV’s platform, either.
(Looking at the iPhone App Store, the MobiTV-powered “AT&T U-Verse Live TV” app is doing okay — it’s the no. 12 highest-grossing entertainment app — but not great — it doesn’t show up in the top 200 overall highest-grossing apps.)
While I appreciate that MobiTV saw the potential for mobile video a long time ago, it’s not the bet I’d be making as far as the future of the industry goes. (Unless, perhaps, a bigger company sees some value in acquiring its platform technology or patents.) As for its live TV service, carriers may keep it around as an option for subscribers, but it’s not really necessary. I have a hard time seeing it take off from here.