Wireless Video Hinges on Content, Leaders Say

Mar 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

BY MATT KAPKO, RCR Wireless News

In a ballroom filled with tech-savvy players in the wireless industry, audio and video problems kept cropping up for each of the five panelists on the “Producing Mobile Content” session at Billboard’s Mobile Entertainment Live meeting. It served as the perfect backdrop for an industry tasked with the vexing desire to deliver rich content to the mobile environment.

If short video clips brought by the executives working on this medium can’t be screened successfully at a wireless convention, just where does that leave the mobile alternative?

The fact is, plenty of companies are already delivering on their promise to make mobile live up to its capabilities as the third screen, perhaps too many. One thing that all are in agreement on, however, is that mobile can’t be the catch-all for everything media; producers of mobile content have to keep the medium in mind. With that comes a shady gray area.

Where some believe their greatest opportunity lies in original programming, others say the same challenges apply in producing content for the mobile screen as has been the case on the TV screen for decades.

“There have been so many content failures,” said Nancy Levin, executive producer of music television at MobiTV. Its strategy is focused on working with the field of already-established big brands out to market. “We work deeply with all the labels to get all this kind of original content,” she said. She brought up MobiTV’s recent project, Avril Lavigne TV, as an example of helping produce content for the mobile environment while capitalizing on the name recognition and star power of A-list talent.

GoTV Labs Executive Vice President Dan Tibbets said the challenge is finding and delivering programming that hits an emotional tone with viewers and fits the need for immediacy. GoTV creates 15 hours of original, made-for-mobile content each week, comprising about 18 percent of all content that they distribute, he said.

FunLittleMovies President and Chief Creative Officer Frank Chindamo said there’s still plenty of room for new players in the video sphere, thanks to mobile. His company has about 1,200 films in its library and has been recognized at numerous film festivals for their original content. Going further, Chindamo showed a 2 %BD;-minute advertiser-sponsored video that he said captures the opportunity advertisers have in the medium, while still focusing on storytelling.

Livia Tortella, general manager and executive vice president of marketing and creative media at Atlantic Records, was here to represent an industry titan already well ensconced in creative media. The record label’s vision is to create unique content that, as a whole, appeals to many listeners. And what makes that content unique is that talented artists are creating it straight out of the gate. Atlantic has harnessed the new mobile platforms as a way to promote its promising, young talent, with behind-the-scenes studio footage and other exclusive content. As long as the deals benefit the label and artist, Tortella said Atlantic is flexible in its pursuit of new distribution agreements.

“Content is king, but distribution is the emperor right now,” Amp’d Mobile Inc. President Bill Stone said, adding that it launched as an mobile virtual network operator to distribute Amp’d original content. The pudding is in the numbers. Only 5 percent of all content available on-deck is original, but it accounts for about 30 percent of all paid content, he said. Furthermore, while the average data revenue per user per month is $7 to $8, Amp’d is experiencing a level closer to $30 a month, he said.

Stone said it costs “pennies on the dollar” to create and develop original made-for-mobile content to the tune of about $100,000 to $200,000, while large studios will spend millions to create one pilot episode for television. Oftentimes it’s worth the risk when big brands charge huge rates to deliver their content elsewhere and demand huge upfront advances for the distribution deal. The “arrogance of big brand names” is one of the reasons he loves the economics of original mobile content, not to mention the fact it’s “more relevant and more interesting to the customer,” he said.

“A lot of people are very frustrated with the old-school media approach” and have been contacting Amp’d in earnest with their mobile aspirations, he said. “We’re starting to see people come to us because of frustration with the traditional media world.”

(Editor: Baumann)