Mobile Monday LA Panel Looks at Content
Mobile Monday Los Angeles tackled the topic of mobile content, opening the evening with remarks from MobiTV‘s Jack Hallahan, who was named Mobile Ambassador at the 2008 Mobile Excellence Awards. He listed some astonishing statistics about the growth of mobile TV, quoting InStat’s estimate that worldwide viewership will expand from today’s 54 million to 300 million by 2013. “We’ve seen a migration in the last year or two shifting from a focus on advertising towards a focus on content,” he said. “In the early days, content was minor league. Now you have a tremendous uptick in mobile content players, including big players like ESPN, CNN, Comedy Central. Sports, news, comedy and entertainment are the big drivers. Everything will happen on mobile.”
He also quoted a PriceWaterhouseCoopers statistic that consumers will spend $630 million on mobile applications and content by 2012. Looking at iPhones, Hallahan observed that YouTube indicated that their video uploads to iPhone went up 400 percent. “The technology to bring the video onto the iPhone is a quick and easy share,” he said. “Without a doubt, everyone is looking at a social networking tools every day and seeing online/mobile video being shared.” He also the possibilities of the Android phone for “mobile video to propagate itself.”
The business model is still working itself out, he noted, naming subscription, free (ad-supported) content and a “free-mium” approach as the three models. He also noted the potential of mobile content being monetized via sponsorships, not unlike the early days of TV when companies selling soap sponsored day-time TV programs. “Online is the big brother to mobile,” he added. “What happens in online is already trickling across to mobile. The doors are open for emerging mobile content. It’s a back door in moving into 3 screens.”
The evening then moved into a discussion, moderated by the Interactive TV Alliance CEO Allison Dollar and featuring panelists Soren Schafft, general manager, North America, Fox Mobile Distribution; Paul Childers, president, North America, Rubberduck Media; Dominick Tolli, SVP, Spinvox; Charles Beeson, line producer, advanced services group, DIRECTV; and Leila Modarres, VP, marketing, Device Anywhere. All the panelists are finalists for the 2009 Mobile Excellence Awards
Schafft introduced the Fox Mobile Group, which exists in 20 languages in 30 countries, and supports over 2,000 devices and 125 carriers. “We can reach over 1 billion consumers,” he said. “Our content catalogue has over 1 million discrete pieces of content including ring tones and wallpaper. This is an interesting period of time. Everything used to be about personalization, adapting your phone to say something about yourself. As devices and network capabilities increased, it turned into a snacking experience with small pieces of content. What we’re seeing now, with- networks with WiFi and 4G and devices with large screen sizes, advanced processing capabilities, is that mobile is becoming a very good alternative for consumption.”
“It’s the beginning of Internet and mobile merging,” Schafft continued. “Mobile brings monetization so it’s a real opportunity to take advantage of a miss on the Internet side.”
Beeson noted that DIRECTV is relatively new to the mobile space, having launched two products. One is the DVR scheduler, which started off as a pet project in the group to see if they could handle the mobile space. “We dug into it and it’s been highly successful,” said Beeson. “It’ll allow you to connect to your DVR at home, important to us as a content distribution platform.” Because of this success, they developed the SuperCast application, which allows you to watch NFL games, live on your iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Palm Pre platforms, “We want to continue to move forward in this space,” said Beeson.
Childers described Rubberduck as a European mobile media company that provides an end-to-end solution set to manage, distribute and monetize video to deliver to any mobile device “We were the first to deliver live Olympic content streamed over mobile phones,” said Childers. He reported that Rubberduck has two genres of clients: media companies like BBC and MTV to take archived content to many platforms. “We also provide end-to-end mobile video solutions for six wireless companies,” he said.
Modarres described Device Anywhere as a development solution for mobile solutions. “Developers are tasked to make sure the application works on all these different devices,” she said. “We offer capability to access all these mobile devices remotely to test and make sure they’re working.” She noted that the company is seeing growth in different types of content. “Everyone wants to be able to offer their content on mobile,” she said. “Entertainment has been a big market for us. It’s also opening up to traditional portals like healthcare and financial that has mission critical applications that have to work.”
Spinvox takes voice and turns it to text, explained Tolli. “The first app we rolled out took a voicemail message and turning it into an SMS, which becomes content on the phone,” he said. “We’re starting to see that voice is becoming content and is being used as content.”
Dollar asked how the panelists define content versus programming versus applications that give an experience? “We use content to drive subscriptions or personalization services,” answered Schafft. “We try to find things that are popular, like songs on the radio. In other markets, we create this content.” He referred to the Schnuffel Bunny, a popular “Euro Disco meets David Hasselhoff” character in Europe. “This went platinum in Germany and three other markets, and the videos are on YouTube,” he said. “It is one of our top selling pieces of content.” Schafft noted that Fox is “getting read to launch some of these video-based services where you can consume long-form content.”
Tolli said that “UGC is where we’re at.” “It’s intertwining with all other content media,” he said. “It won’t dominate but intertwine.
Voice is the new touch. Your own voice is a utility.” Childers said his company sees news and sports as leading genres. “People are trying to stay relevant using this new distribution channel,” he said.
What was the most transformative event of 2009?, asked Dollar? “Several things will drive mobile video penetration,” said Childres. “Look what Comcast is doing with NBC Universal. These companies will be less afraid to get into the distribution world, This is where TV Anywhere spawns from.” Modarres noted that “one thing we observed in social networking is assimilation.” “Motorola launched an Android device and a platform called Blur assimilates all your social networking if it’s Facebook, Twitter, whatever,” she said. “You’re no longer forced to go to different sites. With that concept in mind, there will be efforts on carrier and content provider’s sides to collaborate to provide one common environment.”
Modarres noted that Device Anywhere is now testing numerous mobile devices that aren’t phones, including netbooks and set-top boxes.
“The larger picture is that content consumption is changing,” said Schafft, who pointed out that Fox Mobile Studios created an original made-for-mobile series Brainstorm partnered with Wrigley’s.. “If you get back to an earlier point of the transformative thing happening, it’s not out in the public, but the way people consume content. My kids don’t talk about watching TV, they talk about watching the Internet. You have all sorts of ways to consume the content you love. With the mobile web, you’re flooded with experiences. Like water flowing downhill, the ideal experiences will be discovered by users and they’ll pick their winners. The future winners are setting up their businesses now, solving issues and putting together technology. It’s all happening right now.”
Tags: 4G, Blackberry, Brainstorm, CNN, Comedy Central, Device Anywhere, DIRECTV, DVR scheduler, ESPN, Facebook, Fox Mobile Distribution, InStat, iPhones, mobile applications, mobile content, Mobile Monday, mobile monetization, mobile penetration, mobile solutions, mobile television, mobile TV, mobile video, MobiTV, NBC Universal, netbooks, Palm Pre, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Rubberduck Media, Spinvox, TV Anywhere, Twitter, UGC, WiFi, Windows Mobile