**As published in digiday:DAILY** Publisher: Fox Mobile Distribution, LLC Price: Free (with future pricing plans for movie rentals) Platform: BlackBerry Advertising: None so far Functionality: A- Fun Factor: B+ Overall: B+ I’ve covered all the major networks’ efforts in mobile TV over the past five years, and yet I’ve never understood why they all haven’t done more to control the future of their content pipelines. With an entirely new distribution model at the ready – mobile video – it makes perfect sense for these big media companies to protect their property, maintain their relationships with viewers, and possible even create new fans in the process. Think Hulu, but for mobile. And yet, there’s still no mobile app for Hulu, despite constant rumors of an imminent launch.
As such, it appears that Fox Mobile has taken the early lead with a similar TV and movies service dedicated exclusively to mobile devices. While CBS’ TV.com app has been available for more than a year now, it’s content mix is limited to just CBS programming – and full-length shows aren’t guaranteed. With Bitbop, Fox convinced at least 24 other networks to sign on from the start. To download the app, users have to visit Bitbop.com and request a link that’s sent to their phone via SMS. Currently, it’s only available as a beta for the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and 9000, Tour 9630 and Curve 8900; the company says it will support future BlackBerry devices, as well as iPhone and Android versions soon. The service has a nice online component that lets users manage their queue and select TV shows for future viewing. Meanwhile, Bitbop has tabs for new shows, queue, browse, search and account information directly in the app itself. With each selection, users are given the option of either streaming the show immediately or downloading it for a slightly improved experience. I’ve streamed and downloaded shows over the past few days on the app and haven’t noticed a terrible difference in quality, but there are some obvious limitations with streaming when network coverage is poor. I’m mostly surprised that in all my viewing I haven’t seen one commercial segment yet. Perhaps it’s due to the beta nature of the app at this point, but I have to believe commercials in one form or another will be coming soon. Bitbop also has plans to add a movies on-demand service, which will link up with a $10 monthly fee for unlimited access, but there are also mentions of a $1 plan that I’m guessing will be the price point for a single movie rental. The app doesn’t make its movie rental plans clear on the app or Web site, but there are placeholders in the app already for the service. As a long-time fan of the promise of mobile TV, I’m happy to see another company step up to the plate. Although broadcasters are working toward their own mobile TV plans (trials are underway in Washington, D.C.) and Qualcomm Inc.’s FLO TV is continuing full speed ahead, I think there’s ample room for a variety of businesses to find their unique purpose in the space. If that weren’t the case, MobiTV and GoTV Networks would be in a much worse position than they are today. At the very least, Bitbop will raise the profile and reach of mobile TV and film, and that’s something everyone in Hollywood can appreciate.