Mobile TV Gets Worldwide Focus

Apr 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Programming sales will always be a prominent part of the MIP TV international television market, but with the evolution of mobile television, the annual bazaar is turning its focus to content development.

At this year’s edition of MIP, which kicks off today in Cannes, France, the focus is what content plays best for mobile carriers and what mobile content advertisers will be willing to sponsor.

For the last few years, MIP has set up a separate Mobile Village section where television companies can explore the latest in mobile content. Among the sessions expected to be well-attended by participants this go-round are “Making Millions From Mobile Media: When and How?,” which will explore how to generate revenues from mobile media — in particular mobile TV and video — and “Mobile TV Broadcasting: When Will It Take Off?”

The question of monetizing content is definitely in play. There are currently three primary models being explored internationally: a full subscription service, pay-per-play or free content with strong advertising support.

“There is no consensus on best model for mobile TV or even what kind offers the best quality of service,” said Reza Chady, managing director of telecommunications/

mobile research firm Telephia in Europe. “But companies are making big steps this year in determining which consumers will watch. The question remains, what type of content will work best on mobile TV? Should it be piggybacked on existing popular TV shows or should studios create something entirely new?”

According to Telephia, there were 6.2 million U.S. mobile video subscribers in the last quarter of 2006, up 145 percent from the first quarter of the year. Carrier revenue from mobile video subscriptions totaled $148 million in the fourth quarter, jumping 188 percent since the beginning of 2006. That revenue total places mobile video on par with the well-established and profitable mobile gaming industry.

Meanwhile, consumer technology analyst JupiterResearch projected in a recent report that the growing demand for video in the U.S. country will generate $501 million in revenues by the end of the decade, up from $62 million in 2005.

Within the category for mobile TV ad sales, business also is beginning to blossom. Total outlay in the category represents only 2.6 percent of total ad spending, according to eMarketer. However, the company projects that will grow by double digits very soon — by 2011.

“What we are going to see in mobile content is that, while originally people were buying because of the novelty of it, we are now getting into a phase where the consumer is more or less educated and people will start searching for specific content,” said Alberto Montesi, CEO and general manager of Flycell, which develops, produces or co-produces digital entertainment for distribution over multiple media platforms, including mobile and online.

Globally, the pie is even bigger. Some estimates project total mobile TV subscribers around the world at 130 million by 2011, up from 3.2 million last year, with associated revenues hitting $17.6 billion by 2011. That number could make mobile video as big as mobile music.

Several primary distributors are shifting strategies to keep up with the nascent industry. NBC Universal recently joined forces with MobiTV, which focuses on mobile and broadband television and music services. The deal was designed to make some of the studio’s most popular series available over U.S. wireless networks for the first time, including “Heroes,” “The Office,” “Monk” and “Battlestar Galactica.” Consumers will be able to access complete episodes of the shows starting at $1.99 for a 24-hour window.

Sony recently realigned its mobile business and is staffing up, placing mobile content under the Sony Pictures Television International banner in Los Angeles.

“We are essentially merging our mobile business efforts into our core established business,” said Marie Jacobson, senior VP of programming and production, international networks, for Sony Pictures Television International. “By doing this, we can use mobile as an extension of our linear business so we can cross-promote, feed our brand and also use our linear channel to build the ancillary business of mobile network.”

One key ingredient this year will be the launch of “Afterworld” into the digital hemisphere. The series is comprised of 130 two-minute segments that follow life on earth after an inexplicable global event renders technology useless and 99 percent of the population missing. The story follows the adventures of Russell Shoemaker, who wakes up in New York after this event and is compelled to walk to Seattle in the hope that his wife and child have survived. Along the way, he pieces together the complex mystery behind the global event while encountering survivors who are rebuilding civilization in strange and surprising ways.

The company snagged all international television, Internet, digital sell-through, gaming and mobile rights to the property earlier this year; it marks SPTI’s first acquisition of a project for exploitation across all of these platforms.

“‘Afterworld’ can be different experiences for different people, whether it’s online, as a game or as a mobile property,” Ms. Jacobson said. “We are treating this as a case study of who the series will touch, and how advertisers can be a part of it.”