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

  • Mark-Paul GosselaarFOX 'The Passage' TV show

    'Mixed-ish' at ABC Adds Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Recasting

    Mark-Paul Gosselaar has boarded the upcoming ABC comedy “Mixed-ish.” “Mixed-ish,” a spinoff of “Black-ish,” focuses on the experience of Tracee Ellis Ross’s character, Rainbow Johnson, growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s. Gosselaar will play the role of Bow’s father, taking over from Anders Holm, who played the role in the original pilot. [...]

  • Greg Berlanti

    Greg Berlanti on Why Movies Are Lagging Behind TV in LGBTQ Representation

    Greg Berlanti is television’s most prolific producer. With a record-breaking 18 series from his production company greenlit for the 2019-2020 season, the openly gay Berlanti is using his power to ensure the LGBTQ community is reflected on the small screen — both in front of and behind the camera. From casting the first transgender superhero [...]

  • Legion

    How Production Designer Marco Niro Created a Visual Climax for FX's ‘Legion’

    FX’s “Legion” has always drawn inspiration not only from the Marvel “X-Men” comics on which it is based, but also from the weirder corners of pop culture. When creator Noah Hawley cast “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens as the lead — David Haller, a mutant whose telepathic powers have been misdiagnosed as mental illness — [...]


    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Dear White People' Season 3 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV roundup, “Dear White People” sets an August 2 premiere and Showtime acquires the six-episode comedy series “Back to Life.” DATES “Dear White People” will return for its third season on August 2. The news was announced in a comedic sketch posted to Netflix‘s Youtube channel, in which the series’ cast members debate [...]

  • Adam Lambert Queen

    Adam Lambert on What's Changed for Gay Artists Since His 'American Idol' Run

    Ten years ago, Adam Lambert burst onto the music scene in a blaze of guy-liner, hairspray and sexual ambiguity as America’s most unlikely “Idol.” But while he had the rock star look down and a soaring voice that seduced the hard-to-impress Simon Cowell, Lambert lost. Or did he? While many blamed homophobia for his runner-up [...]

  • Loudest Voice Roger Ailes Miniseries

    Will Showtime's Roger Ailes Miniseries 'The Loudest Voice' Spark More Tell-Alls?

    Roger Ailes in 1996 supervised the launch of a multibillion-dollar business few people thought would ever get off the ground. In 2019 he may have a posthumous hand in instigating something equally complex: a ripped-from-the-headlines drama about the media industry, complete with portrayals of people who still help make it run. If that foray is successful, plenty of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content