Mart’s eye on mobile

Mobile TV set for a spree by 2010

A day devoted to mobile television at the Mipcom TV mart on Wednesday was filled with hope, hype and even a few concrete examples of the technology’s use.

Numbers predicting future consumption of TV via cell phones were vertiginous: There are already twice as many mobile phones as TV sets in the world, and 124.8 million regular mobile TV users are expected by 2010, generating $41 billion in revenue.

Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of mobile giant Orange, invited TV execs to ponder how soon after that others among the world’s 2 billion mobile users would be watching TV on their phones.

“We won’t be stopping at 124.8 million,” he said. “You can reach them through us — so do come and talk to us.”

So far, however, biz is more modest. Ahuja cited France, where Orange has 300,000 regular mobile TV users and some 50 channels and download services are available.

“These are very early days,” he reminded.

Proving popular with mobile auds, he said, is pubcaster France 3’s hit soap “Plus belle la vie.” Mobile users can watch whole episodes, episodes carved into three eight-minute segments or two-minute digests to keep abreast of the latest plots.

Four-minute digests of “Desperate Housewives” also are proving successful.

“Studies show that people tend to watch for two or three minutes. When you tailor content to the medium, customers do catch on,” Ajuha observed.

Ahuja told befuddled international TV folk not to worry about the technological side. “Concentrate on doing what you do best — creating content.”

It was standing room only at Reed Midem’s mobile TV screenings and awards, where a younger, hipper crowd — pioneering producers of content for mobile — said they could be a lot more creative with a little help.

“We just need more money. The telcos have the responsibility to drive this,” said Jim Shomos, who’s behind the prize-winning Oz show “Forget the Rules,” voted best original format.

Show, which aired 39 three-minute episodes from October to January on mobile, broadband and TV, follows the lives of a group of friends in Melbourne. At key moments in the plot, viewers click on the outcome of their choice and the story continues accordingly. U.K. company 3 Mobile’s “See Me TV Service” was voted the best format for user-generated content. Viewers send in a homevideo from their mobile and get paid 1p (2¢) every time someone else looks at it. More than 13 million vids have been watched on the service.

Other canny concepts to get people pushing buttons on their mobile phones more often — thereby generating more revenues — included “Soccer Addicts,” an Italian show in which a presenter introduces video clips from fans giving their views on the latest performance of their favorite team or player.

Similarly, Endemol Mobile’s “Get Close to the Sugarbabes” had fans sending questions, comments or videos to a well-known pop band and receiving personal, on-air responses.

In his keynote speech, Ajuha summed up all this activity as making mobile TV ultimately ” a richer, deeper experience that doesn’t end with the credits.”

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