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Mobile entertainment: The next 'big' screen

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MUMBAI: Earlier, I would do the rounds of TV channels asking them to reach consumers via SMS. Now even channel advertisers want to use this media to add value to programmes. Orange associate VP value-added services and new applications Balu Nayar said this while taking part in the FICCI session on 'Mobile entertainment-Whenever, Wherever'.

"Three years ago, I was knocking on the doors of TV channels telling them let us do something on SMS. Now it provides value to even the advertisers on channels," Nayar said. He was narrating his experiences when SMS first came to India five years ago.

Then we had TOM Group Ltd CEO & ED Sing Wang presenting some amazing data which showed India in the driving seat in Asia in the mobile segment. "In Asia, India has the fastest Compound Annual Growth Rate-CAGR-in mobile growth-36.4 per cent," says Wang.

The session discussed how mobile entertainment evolved as a big revenue driver for mobile operators, device manufacturers and media and content owners. Mauj.com COO Arun Gupta and Turner Broadcasting System International VP Wireless & Emerging technology Mitch Lazar also spoke in the session, which was moderated by Indiagames founder & director Vishal Gondal.

Opening the session, Lazar threw light on how the content has been driving the mobile technology. He cited the Sony example of Indian Idol where SMS was used to decide the winner. Speaking on the technological advances, he said even journalists were making use of innovations like camera phones to report news. Lazar listed the areas where the mobile segment faces challenges like-standards and device interoperability, simplicity and billing and business model.

Lazar said media companies, including TV channels, should keep mobiles also in mind while conceptualising and producing programmes. Sing Wang shared some important numbers with the audiences on mobile growth-the global mobile population will touch 1.5 billion by 2007.

In Asia, the mobile population is currently 330 million and is growing at a rate of 5 million users per month. The mobile penetration is expected to reach 37 per cent by 2008. By 2007, the Asia Pacific region is estimated to contribute 38 per cent of total global revenues. In India, the mobile population is 48 million growing at a rate of 1.5 million to 2 million users per month. The mobile penetration is expected to touch 15 per cent by 2008 in the country.

Speaking on the wireless product strategy, Wang said the content is mainly driven by music, sports and entertainment. He listed the key elements for future growth as not to over emphasise technology, need to focus on customer experience also, strategies must combine the integrated use of content and application and presentation. On piracy, he said, one must adhere to royalty and copyrights laws. "We do pay royalty. It is a business decision," said Wang.

Nayar said mobiles could be used as a perfect sampling device by filmmakers and TV channels. "Mobile is a perfect sampling device through which trailers, video clips and ringtones can reach the potential audiences. This can create a buzz," he said.

Speaking on Sony's Indian Idol, Nayar said the game was not just based on SMS. "Here the sampling was handled by sending the performance videos and pictures of the contestants," he said.

Nayar warned against stereotyping while identifying the consumer segments. "It is not just the upwardly mobile areas that bring in the consumers, but even some of the rural areas have got mobile penetration now. So we should be prepared to target even those consumers," he said.

Answering a query on "what is really selling," Nayar said we shouldn't second rate the consumer. "We should offer everything and see what they accept. Frivolous content is really working very well here," he said. Speaking about the scope for movie content on mobile, he said every aspect of the movie should complement the mobile medium.

Gupta pointed out that mobile phones are fast evolving as the third big screen after TV and computer. "The number of mobile handsets already outnumber the number of TVs in a number of countries. In Japan, more people browse Internet on mobile phones than PCs," he pointed out adding, "In the next two years it will be the same in India."

According to Gupta, the mobile data is a key contributor to operator's average revenue per unit (ARPU) which is between 2 to 15 per cent. He identified the upcoming mobile entertainment products as-video tunes, full track downloads and video streaming. "The next killer probably hasn't been invented yet," he commented. Giving the example of Bollywood, he threw light on the complex issue of multiple copyrights which poses a challenge for mobile content players.

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