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Mobile goes global

Cell phone content could reach 3 bil by '10

CANNES — In just five years, 3 billion people will watch content on mobile devices — equal to the number who watch TV — according to figures presented Wednesday by Endemol U.K.’s chief creative officer, Peter Bazalgette, as he kicked off Mipcom’s Mobile Day.

Sesh focused on the rapidly expanding business of creating and broadcasting content on cell phones, a theme carried on throughout the day, which culminated in the Mobile TV Awards ceremony Wednesday night.

Bazalgette’s figures explain why all the meetings were packed.

Mobile content is expected to revolutionize providers’ relationships with the viewer.

“I have been in the business for 28 years, and my only access to the audience until now has been in the living room,” Bazalgette said. “I can now reach them 24 hours a day, which has to be the biggest challenge in my career. I believe it is a very big opportunity.”

Endemol already streams content from several of its properties via mobile after their TV broadcast. These include “Big Brother” and the Italian soap “Vivere” (Living). Rival Fremantle makes episodes of “Good Times, Bad Times” available on cell phones before their TV broadcast, Bazalgette said.

Reflecting how seriously content providers view the new market, Endemol plans to launch the Extreme Reality Channel and the Comedy Channel for mobiles in the coming months, as well as Endemol Mobile, a division dedicated to developing mobile content.

Bazalgette had an array of impressive numbers on the take-up rates of content consumption via cell phone and on related services such as SMS text messaging.

In 2004 Endemol saw 6 million streamed minutes and 500,000 downloads across Australia, Italy and the U.K. for “Big Brother.”

Programmers and content providers are on a steep learning curve with regard to developing and broadcasting mobile content. Hurdles to overcome include poor quality, the limitations of the super-small screen and piracy.

“Mobile is a different mindset,” he said. “We need to work out as an industry what people want and at what different parts of the day. That is a process, which is only just beginning.”

Still, efforts to adapt this new language should pay off.

“It’s a content gold-rush right now,” he said. “Phone companies have paid so much for these licenses that they have to make it work. While they used to sell just technology, content is now part of the marketing plan.”

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