Still looking for the magic bullet that will keep cell phone users online and loyal, Sprint announced this week three new additions to its streaming TV service, MobiTV, with some programming produced specifically for mobile handsets.
Signing up to offer TV shows for a potential audience of more than one billion cell phone users are NBC Universal, Fox Interactive Media, and Comedy Time.
MobiTV currently offers a live TV service from MSNBC, CNBC, the Discovery Channel, TLC, ABC News, Fox Sports, and Major League Baseball (MLB), among others.
The difference now is that NBC, for example, will produce shows targeted to the very small screen, according to Jeff Bartee, a vice president at Idetic, the developer of MobiTV technology.
"NBC recognized the need for a customized channel specifically for the wireless customer. When they shoot a person talking they come in close so it fills the screen. They provide larger graphics," said Bartee.
NBC will also give shorter news summaries of leading news stories for users who may not have the time to watch an entire program. Programming will be updated hourly, said Bartee.
MobiTV, available on Sprint's 3G 1xRT service, currently performs at a slow one to two frames per second. Thirty frames per second is considered full motion. However, later this year, handset manufacturers producing cell phones for Sprint will start incorporating the Qualcomm 6100 media player chip set which will increase performance to about 15 frames per second on the 1xRT network, according to Dale Knoop, manager of multimedia services at Sprint.
When MLB listeners tune in they will be able to hear their home town team announcer no matter where they are dialing in from, noted Knoop.
While the audio component of the streaming TV service performs well, watching video on a tiny screen also compromises viewability even at higher frame rates.
"Market updates on the crawl across the bottom of the screen on CNBC are difficult to read," said Knoop.
As Sprint roles out its next generation service, EVDO, next year, frame rates are expected to improve even more.
Sprint offers two services, MobiTV and MobiMLB,each at $9.99 per month for users who already subscribe to the Sprint Vision service. Sprint is also offering a $5 and $10 credit to those users for the MobiTV services.