Remember when local telephone service was purchased from one company, long distance from another, Internet access from yet another and cellular calls from a wireless phone provider? This model was supposed to spur competition and innovation. However, from a customer point of view, it required multiple phone calls to a wide range of companies to figure out how to simply call a friend or send an e-mail.
Fortunately, when one needs to communicate today, he or she can do so by dealing with a single communications solution company-SBC, Verizon or Sprint. These companies have successfully introduced communications packages that give customers a single source. Consumers could still shop around for a better wireless deal or long-distance calling package, but often they opt for the one-stop-shop approach.
Television entities looking to build a closer connection with viewers in today’s mobile world are facing a similar challenge. If they wish to offer a customer a ringtone of the theme song from a TV show, they contact a ringtone company. And the search goes on when it comes to creating wireless games, screensavers, wallpaper, text messaging, show alerts and downloadable premium applications. The result: multiple deals with a host of providers that each offers only a limited set of features.
But the mobile content world is quickly moving in the same direction as communications companies to respond to consumer needs. As the market consolidates into mobile content solutions companies, the television industry will be able to work with a single source to create meaningful and breakthrough mobile solutions to reach viewers. Complete wireless packages including games, messaging and personalization features will be offered through a core group of mobile content companies, enabling networks to get the most bang for their buck. Consistent treatment of brands, on-air talent and entertainment assets across multiple mobile applications will be achieved by companies that offer a complete wireless package.
As well, new packaged wireless applications are being developed to enhance the television-viewing experience. With the industry looking for opportunities to interact with new audiences, maintain existing viewers and generate extra revenues, it’s not surprising that ABC, Fox and Discovery, among others, have begun embracing premium and sponsored wireless opportunities to reach even the hardest-to-target viewers.
Using Internet-enabled mobile phones, viewers can participate in polling, trivia, contests, chat or even mobile commerce while watching their favorite programs or special events. Text messaging can also extend the TV experience beyond a program’s conclusion and empower viewers with influence over a program, by giving them interactive applications they can enjoy anywhere and anytime.
Why text messaging instead of, say, e-mail?
1. Television isn’t always a solitary event. Viewers often watch with other people or in public places, and in such situations, they have easier access to a mobile handset than to a PC or a laptop.
2. Handsets can be accessed without taking the viewer away from the television. Laptops or PCs, which take more work to set up, are more distracting, with studies showing that users also tend to check e-mail or do a host of other activities rather than pay attention to the television program. Using text messaging on a mobile phone is far more efficient and considerably less intrusive.
3. Research has shown that users given a choice between voting on the Web or via their handset choose their handset.
While valuable messaging applications are available for television talk, drama, reality, game and news programs, we’re finding that sports programming is ripe with opportunities and has been embraced by viewers. Wireless sports applications include competitive games where viewers can predict plays and calls, head-to-head trivia and on-demand access to additional stats and related information. Text messages, which are less intrusive than phone calls and easier than e-mail to access immediately, can be sent to individuals or groups in an integrated and personalized fashion.
Live sports updates, in fact, have proven to be very popular, as Proteus has experienced through work with the World Cup and the Olympic Games. These updates, currently sent to mobile phones as simple text messages, will in the future be delivered as both a text message and a video highlight.
In addition to television, advertisers also benefit from the one-to-one relationships with the millions of young, tech-savvy, educated consumers who use wireless applications. And of course, with sponsored and premium revenue models, increased interest in messaging and creative content and new applications constantly being created, the television industry has several immediate paths to new revenue stream creation. Today some 2.5 billion text messages are sent monthly in the United States. In an industry where ratings are counted in thousands and millions, that number alone should motivate television executives to want to reach out and touch someone. n
Craig Shapiro is VP of business development for Proteus.