Mobile entertainment is part dream, part nightmare, and part reality. As far as we’ve come, we still have a very long ways to go. The dream is pretty straightforward: We want to be able to watch any TV show or movie anytime, anywhere, on any device with a screen. We would like all this untethered freedom at no extra cost beyond what is required to obtain the content. Content providers to consumers: “Keep dreaming”.
While there is no technical reason why this can’t happen today, there are a number of business reasons. Those numbers are generally preceded by dollar signs. Content providers are convinced that a completely consumer-centric approach would be bad for business. Executives have to have private jets. And jet fuel isn’t cheap. As long as the status quo is perceived to be the safest route, content execs will always fight against progress.
The good news is that the process of change has already begun. We do not have to wait for the dream to be fully realized before we can start enjoying the benefits of mobile entertainment. Indeed, we have come a long way in quite a short period of time. What makes mobile entertainment possible is the ubiquitous Internet connection we carry in our pockets everyday. As it has gotten increasingly better, we have found more things to do with it. Streaming TV is just one of them.
Today, cable and satellite companies are bundling services together. VoIP allows phone calls to be done over the Internet. IPTV does the same for television. The DIRECT TV Internet company bundles multiple technologies in a single service, allowing consumers to watch television over the Internet connection to which they already subscribed to.
Today, mobile entertainment is as easy as launching the right app. Depending on the app and service you are using, just tune into the channel of your preference, and enjoy the show. You can even watch shows that you have recorded on your DVR. If you happen to find something in the channel guide you want to record, you can do so right from your mobile. In many cases, it is easier to record your favorite show from a mobile than it is from your DVR at home. As good as things are, we still have quite a long way to go.
Remember the dream. We want to be able to watch our TV and movies anywhere. But it doesn’t quite work out that way without a lot of caveats. To begin with, most services have some official way for you to watch their programming on your mobile device. But it is often restricted to your home’s wifi. Once you step outside of your house, you lose the official service. If you do retain a truly mobile service, it will often be greatly restricted, with many channels blocked. If you leave the house thinking you are going to catch the big game on the local affiliate, your nightmare is just beginning.
The networks all have apps for the major mobile platforms. You might think you are in the clear if you have the free app. But you might run into a situation where the show you thought you were going to watch for free is actually behind a paywall. CBS charges for premium, mobile access. You might attempt to bypass the situation by skipping the provider’s app, and picking up a SlingBox for unlimited place-shifting. Not only do you have to pay a hefty price for the SlingBox, you also have to pay for the ad-free SlingPlayer app, once for your tablet, and again for your iPhone. Even then, it is only a 2-star app.
Services such as Hulu and Netflix require monthly fees, and don’t have all the shows you want to watch. When you do find a series you like, it could be gone tomorrow without notice. Mobile entertainment is here, kind of. But it is fraught with challenge and frustration. But this is the nadir of mobile entertainment. The good news is that it only gets much better from here.