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Much Ado About Mobile at CES

To quote CBS Interactive President Neil Ashe “Historically ‘next year’ was always the year for mobile in the interactive space and this year, I think it’s actually true."

Every year here at CES industry experts say that we're on the verge of mobile video hitting the mainstream, and every year mobile video grows slowly as consumers get new options and higher- quality devices. This year as more mini smart books, netbooks and of course tablets roll out, the number of ways you can consume mobile video will only explode, the question is: will people watch?

Only 14 percent of Internet users watch some video on their mobile phones in the course of an average week, according to Forrester Research's James McQuivey. He and Accenture partner David Wolfe both warned me that mobile video consumption is still nascent, and because consumers don't want to stare at a tiny screen for half an hour, it will probably remain the domain of shorter clips.

Still, the mobile carriers are all hoping mobile video catches on -- it's yet another service they can tack onto your bill. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T Mobile all offer mobile video. If you're paying $9.99 monthly for MobiTV's basic live TV product, MobiTV, which has 8 million subscribers, offers TV programming you can channel surf through to a growing number of mobile devices.

But to make sure they're not overwhelming consumers the company is increasingly moving toward personalization or as MobiTV's Jay Hinman said, allowing consumers to be their own broadcasters.

The best example of this is MobiTV's video apps. Stock watchers can buy "Market Now TV" for $5.99 a month, which includes the major business news channels (featuring CNBC of course) and searchable stock charts. UFC fans can download a 99-cent IPhone application and then $44.95 to watch a match on your phone. (It sounds like a lot, but they promise me people are buying.) The NBA league pass for $39.99 access a year of basketball- any game not on national TV so you can keep up with your home teams on the go. MobiTV won't give us subscriber numbers but tells us it's a top ten App for the IPhone.

CES '10 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report
CES '10 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report

But talk of all these IPhone video apps raises questions: can the infrastructure support all that traffic?

IPhone temporarily suspended sales in Manhattan because the network was getting overloaded. Right now not that many people want to access that video content and for now it's probably a good thing -- we'll see what happens to the networks when video traffic eventually does spike.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.