Madison’s WISC Calling With Content

Sep 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

WISC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Madison, Wis., will take a big leap into the mobile world later this month when it becomes one of the first local broadcasters in the country to offer video over cellphones.

The Morgan Murphy-owned station will begin serving up news packages in a downloadable form to a limited test group this month, with plans to fire up a full commercial launch of the service by October or November.

The move is a sign that broadcasters are heeding the message that permeated the National Association of Broadcasters convention earlier this year to exploit new revenue-generating content distribution opportunities such as broadband, video-on-demand and wireless.

To date, a handful of broadcasters have dabbled in wireless offerings, primarily delivering traffic, weather and news alerts to cellphones. Capitol Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., was the first with an extensive wireless offering, but it lacked video.

WISC content will include news, sports and weather, said Izzy Abbass, president, North America, for U-Turn Media, the technology provider behind the WISC deal.

“We did it because we have a lot of content and it just seems as though we have to utilize other ways to distribute our content,” said David Sanks, executive VP of WISC. “You need to get into these things and see how this digital world is going to make your company successful.”

Mr. Sanks said WISC will evaluate business models for the service over the next two months. Under consideration is an ad-supported option in which various pages on the cellphones are sponsored, such as a weather alert sponsored by a local car dealer that includes a direct link to that dealer. Another means to monetize the service is by selling it as a subscription service or bundling it with a cellular carrier for a revenue split with the carrier.

As part of the test process, WISC will evaluate the length of video that consumers want. A 15-second preview linking to a longer version seems ideal, Mr. Sanks said.

Mr. Abbass said viewers who have a data plan with their cellular carrier will be able to sign up for the service on the WISC Web site by entering their phone number. The user receives a text message on the cellphone confirming the request. The application is then loaded onto phones that are capable of displaying video.

Users will see a WISC logo on the phone and can click on it to access the menu. The station will update the menu a few times a day.