Mobile TV via Cell Phone in Jamaica

Mobile TV via Cell Phone in Jamaica

Marcia Forbes PhD

There was a great deal of excitement regarding the prospect of mobile TV via one's cell phone. This service was launched in Jamaica one year ago, in January 2011. This is what I wrote at the time. Today it seems the excitement has all but disappeared. The flavour of the day, March 2012, is 4G. Who knows what it will be tomorrow.

Content Drives Demand

I heard it first on radio via talk show host, Ragashati, Mr. King of Mixup!! Good for LIME I thought, who better than Raga to make this announcement. After all, King Raga has afternoon radio locked into sorting, swiping and similar sexual stimulations. LIME was therefore guaranteed a large audience for the announcement that its trade-in offer of your old cell phone, from whichever provider, for one of its new mobile TV phones was sold out by Friday afternoon, January 14th. This came after only a couple days of the offer being publicized and from all reports was a great surprise for LIME—hence the fact that they ran out of instruments so soon, leaving many would-be mobile TV watchers very disappointed.

Two events drove the rush to acquire LIME’s mobile TV. Both of them relate to the well-established and accepted concept that content is KING! Rebel Salute, in its 18th year and positively branded as a show which features conscious artistes but staged in far-away St. Elizabeth, was scheduled for Saturday, January 15th. The highly-anticipated ‘Before the Dawn’ live concert from Florida, featuring embattled Buju Banton and several of his supporters, was for Sunday, January 16th. I intended to see both. So did many other Jamaicans in Jamaica. None of us knew/know if this would have been our last opportunity to see and hear Buju perform.

Getting the Signal
Having been favoured with a mobile TV phone at the launch, there was no scramble for me. Phase 3, the company I co-own, covered Rebel Salute so I already had that locked. What caused me some concern was the Buju concert. Although having previously ensured that the mobile TV phone did work at our Half Way Tree office, I could get no signal from home. The LIME customer service via twitter (@LIME_Help) tried everything to get me going. Their map for mobile coverage suggested that I was within the coverage radius but no luck. I was not accepting that this occasion, historic on so many counts, was going to miss me. So, off to the office a small group of us headed to watch Buju live via this 3 x 2 phone screen.

Three grown adults watched while the 4th listened to six hours of concert live from Miami, Florida via a tiny mobile TV phone. It was quite an experience and one I’m happy I did not miss. With amplification of the speaker phone we all heard quite clearly. The picture was also amazingly clear. Battery drain was addressed by plug in for on-going charge. Buju performed for a solid two hours from 10pm to 12 midnight with the signal cut as he exited stage in the company of his lawyer, David Marcus, who he had invited on.

I posted a total of over 70 tweets, encouraged along by several of my over 1,000 followers who only knew what was happening via my tweets. One tweep, a radio talk show host in Atlanta, enquired if I was in Miami at the concert. I explained that I was in Jamaica and tweeting based on what I saw via LIME’s mobile TV. My years as General Manager at TVJ with Simon Crosskill doing live commentary over sports feeds from overseas had taught me that, properly done, no one had to know you were not there live on location. The thank you tweet from David Marcus, in appreciation of my positive comments about Buju’s performance, was totally unexpected but yet again proved the power of twitter.

Empowerment v/s Entertainment
As I immerse myself in data-collection regarding how Jamaicans in the 14 to 30 age range are using their mobile phones and the internet, my eyes are riveted on this phenomenon of mobile TV via the cell. At first I conceived a faceoff between Digicel’s 4G versus LIME’s mobile TV. Empowerment versus Entertainment I thought. Quickly I realized the folly of this dichotomy. Entertainment is empowering for many Jamaicans. Truth be told, much of our economy thrives off entertainment-related projects and programmes. Flow’s recent announcement of its partnership with HBO to cover Jamaica Jazz & Blues highlighted the tourism spin-offs of this entertainment-based project.

LIME’s mobile TV via the cell phone offers tremendous opportunities for local content creators, production companies, rental houses and related small businesses such as talent scouts, make-up, etc. What is clear though is that the content must be worth the inconvenience of the small screen. Speaking of Rebel Salute via this tiny screen one tweep emphasizing how much he wanted to see the concert and was happy to have it despite screen size. Motivation for viewing is important and content with strong appeal will pull people. Coming back to Ragashanti, the man and his tambourine posse are hilarious. Using entertainment to empower, he’s the King of Afternoon Radio who really belongs in Prime Time, 9pm and onward when he could be allowed full reign.