Court TV Takes Its Case to Cellphones

Aug 1, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Court TV executives finalized a deal last week for the network’s first venture into mobile video content.

The pact, which was hammered out during the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing summit in Philadelphia, is with cellphone service provider SmartVideo and calls for the cellphone company to deliver Court TV in four ways to video-enabled cellphones.

The deal made at CTAM is one of several for new interactive services that are emblematic of the conference’s overwhelming theme of embracing new services that provide consumers with new ways to access television brands.

GSN finalized its plans to earmark on-air contestant slots on its next season of “Lingo” for the top winners of an online “Lingo” tournament starting this week. And specialty video-on-demand service Akimbo Systems said it has developed a program for cable operators to incorporate Akimbo’s service into their existing DVR-capable set-top boxes, providing consumers with access to more niche content on-demand.

As consumers increasingly control where, when and how they consume media, the cable industry will need to entice consumers by building brands, said Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide CEO Shelly Lazarus during her opening keynote speech at CTAM.

“Every single marketplace trend can be traced to one simple truth-consumers are taking back control of everything,” she said. Cultivating a strong brand is the only way to survive in this new environment, she added, and one of the ways networks and service providers are doing that is by embracing their lack of control and actively ceding it to customers with the new services they introduce.

The Court TV deal is one of the most ambitious mobile debuts by a network because it gives consumers several ways

to experience the content. SmartVideo will deliver the network in four forms to video-enabled phones. Consumers can access a live feed of the 24-hour network, the network’s daytime news programming block, prime-time content from its VOD lineup and online content such as Web clips and trial coverage.

What’s more, Court TV gets paid, unlike what typical VOD arrangements provide. The network will receive a per-subscriber fee from SmartVideo since the content will be included with about 20 channels in SmartVideo’s $12.95 basic package of content, said Claire Cowart, Court TV’s senior VP of business development and strategy.

“We believe it will give us exposure to the younger viewers, which helps us drive our demo younger,” she said.

Separately, the network inked a deal last week to provide content for a 2006 pilot test with ViseonMedia, which offers a digital telephone for Voice over Internet Protocol service that also displays video.

Over at GSN, the network will host a new online “Lingo” tournament each week for the 13-week season of the series, which starts this week. The top winner each week will secure a spot to compete on the game show on-air in the next season, said John Roberts, senior VP of interactive for the network.

“In this new season of Lingo, [host] Chuck Woolery will say, ‘You think you are good at Lingo? Go to GSN and join the league,'” he said. Users will pay $1 for each five-minute session. Some of that money goes to a prize pool for contestants; part of it will go to the network’s coffers, creating a new incremental revenue stream for GSN. To date, the network has generated strong numbers for “Lingo” online, with 700,000 game plays per month. “Lingo” is GSN’s highest-rated original game show.

Also at CTAM, GSN debuted its “GSNi service,” a branded slate of one-screen interactive applications for the network’s shows that lets viewers play along in real time simply by using a remote control. The network tested the service with Time Warner Cable in Hawaii using GoldPocket Interactive technology for more than a year and is now broadly marketing the service to cable operators.

Mr. Roberts said the service, which includes 10,000 episodes of interactive content, will be rolled out with a major MSO this fall, with others to follow. He declined to name the operator, but it’s widely believed the service will be introduced in an East Coast Comcast market. Once the GSN service is up and running, operators can use the GoldPocket technology to sell local interactive spots, either on GSN or other networks, he said.

Akimbo’s news that it will offer its service as a set-top box download for operators should boost uptake for the service, since consumers will no longer need to buy a separate Akimbo box. Under the new plan, consumers choose shows, such as foreign-language films, from Akimbo’s service for download to their cable box. The new program represents an additional revenue stream for operators, since Akimbo is a subscription service.

Akimbo also lets operators take advantage of the increasingly popular notion of the “long tail” of content, which posits that consumers have an appetite for vast amounts of niche content.