Broadcasting to handheld devices - user´s preferences

A study of the possibilities for broadcasting to handheld devices, seen from the perspective of users

A project I wrote as part of my ongoing studies for a MSc in IT at the IT University of Copenhagen in 2005.

It was written under the supervision of Peter Olaf Looms, external lecturer at the ITU and senior consultant at Danmarks Radio. Any errors and faulty conclusions are of course mine.

The paper takes a critical look at the enthusiasm surrounding technology development for broadcasting to handhelds and asks the question whether broadcast to handhelds is in danger of losing the race for video distribution before it gets started?

Following is the introduction and problem statement, the whole paper is available as a pdf (270 KB) and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.


The transmission of video to handheld devices (in particular mobile phones) is widely mentioned in the media and international conferences as several competing technologies are currently being developed and tested. This is seen by many as the next step in achieving the premise of being able to watch anything, anytime, anywhere and on any device.

This paper focuses on the possibilities for broadcast of content to handheld devices, with a special focus on video broadcast. The benefits and drawbacks of broadcasting techniques are described in reference to other methods of distribution.

The necessary technologies for broadcasting to handhelds are becoming available, but the question remains how users will respond to this technique and how feasible it is in comparison to other methods for transmitting video to handheld devices.

As an attempt at providing a basis for drawing conclusions about user preferences I will present three archetypes of users and discuss what can be concluded about their wishes and capabilities when it comes to broadcast content. Finally I compare these discussions with existing research and propose further studies to provide answers to some important unanswered questions.

Problem statement

With the technology necessary to broadcast video to handheld devices becoming available, the question remains what type of content the coming users will prefer. Do they prefer conventional broadcast television or does this new medium require new types of content? What research has been done in this area and what possible avenues remain to be studied?


This paper is based on desktop research of existing research and business literature, including news stories and press releases. An attempt is made to detect patterns and present a holistic description of the research area with focus on the questions presented in the problem statement.

Download the whole paper (pdf - 270 KB).

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

In short it is my main conclusion that future users will demand more personalization options than broadcast technology can realistically deliver, with the future of broadcast to handhelds more of a supplement to on-demand methods.