×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Showbiz, telcos hear static

3GSM addresses mobile's future

BARCELONA — Mobile entertainment took a big step into the spotlight at the 3GSM mobile phone conference last week. But amid debuts of short films from Sundance and Bollywood and splashy new handsets, one thing was clear: Big Entertainment and Big Telco haven’t yet figured out how to work together.

Whether it’s a Dayton/Faris film, Dirty Sanchez or a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, the two industries are still sizing each other up as they try to figure out the best way to get entertainment into the hands of mobile consumers in a profitable way.

“As an industry, we have to become easier to do business with,” admits Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile operator in revenue with £29.3 billion ($56.8 billion).

Entertainment execs have complained that cellular carriers have tried to take too much control of the revenue and presentation of mobile entertainment through their own mobile portals (“decks” in the U.S.).

They also criticize carriers for charging too much by levying an extra “data” charge on top of the price the consumer pays for the content, and they say that carriers’ entertainment services are scaring off potential users because they’re too complicated. This is slowing what Juniper Research says could be a $76 billion business by 2011.

Warner Music boss Edgar Bronfman Jr. conveyed that message in a rallying keynote Feb. 14, noting that the two industries are “leaving billions of dollars in unrealized profits,” and pointing out that only a tiny portion of mobile users bother to tap into music.

“It’s expensive, it’s complicated and it’s slow,” he said. “We often get very frustrated because user-interfaces are really quite inadequate.”

“We’ve got to improve the consumer experience,” concurs Lucy Hood, chief executive of Jamba, the News Corp.-controlled provider of mobile entertainment. “It’s a billion-dollar business but it could be oh so much more.”

Mika Salmi, president of Global Digital Media for MTV Networks, also called on operators to share more data on consumer usage.

Carriers, in return, have criticized entertainment companies for some of the same issues, noting they have been grabbing for too big a share of the revenue pie in light of the billions of dollars operators are spending to upgrade networks so they can carry entertainment.

Although relations seem to be improving — Vodafone started opening up its Vodafone live! portal by adding Internet links — entertainment companies continue to also figure out ways to reach the mobile consumer directly. While continuing to work with carriers and their 2 billion global customers, they are at the same time increasingly bypassing the carrier decks through various means such as running their own mobile Web sites.

News Corp., with its marketing muscle, is well positioned to drive users straight to the Jamba mobile site via the open mobile Internet. It has pushed aggressively into direct to consumer (D2C) mobile distribution by acquiring a controlling interest in mobile content creator and aggregator Jamba, known as Jamster in the U.S. Mobile versions of many of its properties including “The Simpsons,” “24,” “American Idol”  “Prison Break” and “The Simple Life” air on Jamba.

Hood might have been hinting at strong direct-to-consumer intensions when she said in a keynote speech that when it comes to business models, “we will be relentless.”

MTV’s Salmi says, “I’m personally a big fan of direct-to-consumer. We want to be directly in touch with them rather than have a middleman.”

MTV markets a stable of properties on mobile including “Pimp My Ride,” “Dirty Sanchez,” “South Park” and “Busta Moves.” Most of its mobile business now is through carriers.

Entertainment and telco will also fight over revenue from advertisements bought on mobile phones, a fledgling business that many people believe will be a tremendous boost to mobile entertainment. Market research firm Informa forecasts a mobile advertising market of $11.4 billion by 2011.

What was striking at 3GSM was that people from all walks of the entertainment industry including Oscar-nominated directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris  (“Little Miss Sunshine”) had mobiles on their minds — and in their production studios.

“I imagine it will work like the Internet — some of it’s free, some of it you pay for,” Dayton says.

Dayton and Faris plus four other Sundance-funded directors and Bollywood director producer Sanjay Gupta all debuted made-for mobile short films at 3GSM. The Sundance films are free.

More TV

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Norman Reedus and Ryan Hurst'The Walking

    Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead' Without Andrew Lincoln: 'He's With Me Every Day'

    After saying goodbye to most of the original cast on “The Walking Dead,” Norman Reedus still feels his former co-stars with him during each episode. “I’ve seen so many people come and go,” he said during a “Walking Dead” panel on Friday at PaleyFest. “Right now on the show, the ghosts of all those guys [...]

  • Series Mania: De Mensen, Reel One

    Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project 'Capturing Big Mouth' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth. The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    Viacom, DirecTV Make Progress in Contract Talks, No Blackout After Deadline Passes

    UPDATED: Viacom and DirecTV executives went down to the wire Friday on a combative contract renewal negotiation with high stakes for both sides. The companies stayed in talks past the midnight Eastern contract expiration and the channels stayed up on AT&T’s platforms. Sources indicated early Saturday that the threat of a blackout had been averted. [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

  • Ryan Murphy Walk of Fame

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets Premiere Date for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” series, and Kristin Cavallari will host “Paradise Hotel” on Fox.  DATES Reality star Kristin Cavallari will host Fox’s reboot of “Paradise Hotel,” an unscripted dating show in which a group of singles will check into a tropical resort and compete to check [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content