Mobile TV: Opportunity beckons in digital unwired world

CANNES: Wet, miserable and about the jolliest crowd around seemed to be the brolly sellers (who made a killing). Still, Wednesday more than lived up to its billing as the highlight day of Mipcom 2005 with the focus being on mobile television.

Everyone wanted a piece of the action around the mobile sessions and it was standing room only through the day in what turned out to be a really worthwhile experience for delegates at the mart.

“The greatest opportunity the content industry has had” is how Peter Bazalgette, chief creative officer, Endemol Group put it during his mobile and cross-platform keynote that had a rather quirky title ‘It's Digital, Not New Media Stupid!’

But there was nothing quirky about his presentation, which he broke up into three parts:the way ahead; hurdles; new Endemol ventures (more on that in a separate report).

By 2010 there will be three billion TV users and an equal number of mobile users. According to the Endemol CCO, mobile is going to go worldwide in a way that is unprecedented.

Bazalgette had some surprising points to make as well. One was that soaps DO work well on mobile (at least those that are already popular brands on TV) because people are familiar with the story and plotline. And because they are familiar with the plot, people will still tolerate the poor picture quality that current bandwidth problems and handset deficiencies will in due course get sorted out.

And while mobile episodes that are simply repurposed from TV content is already a common feature, Bazalgette pointed out that there is certainly a case for building EXCLUSIVE mobile content around well known TV brands as well.

He took the point further when he stated that the next step should be to create content just for mobile and for the needs of the mobile service.

Mobile TV consumption patterns

Morning (7 to 9:30), lunch hour and evenings are when there is the highest consumption, clearly pointing to a link with commute times as well as free time. The challenge, said Bazalgette, was to extend that time frame and it was only when content providers had cracked this particular hurdle that the real ramp up in mobile TV content would take place.

Production rules

    More close ups.

    Slower speech.

    Higher contrast, different lights.

So what are the immediate challenges for players looking to take the plunge?

    P to P swapping is going up so digital rights management would be an issue.

    Equitable deals need to be negotiated for content creators.

    A marketing model, particularly for original content (and not a brand extension of existing product).

    Clear pricing.

    Advertising. Should it be a free to air model in the initial phase to pump up subscriber volumes? Indiantelevision.com believes that this strategy should be avoided at all costs since the beauty of mobile is that the culture of payment (pay per download and pay per streaming) is built in to the system and all users expect to pay.

    Spectrum width continues to be an issue. Till regulators release additional spectrum bandwidth problems will remain.

    Mobile phone groups need to sell the content as well as the technology. Late adaptors (or the mass user) need and want content, not the backend technology.

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