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Telcos need to simplify our lives

Bronfman criticizes state of mobile music

BARCELONA — Entertainment industry executives including Warner Music boss Edgar Bronfman Jr. and digital toppers from News Corp. and MTV Wednesday challenged cellular carriers to make their mobile entertainment services easier to use and simplify end-user pricing, lest a giant market opportunity slip away.

“The average music download experience takes 2½ minutes and 20 clicks,” said Bronfman. “We often get very frustrated because user-interfaces are really quite inadequate.” 

On top of that, “it’s expensive,” said Bronfman, echoing a common complaint among the entertainment industry that carriers are socking users with extra “data transfer” charges which, when combined with the price for content, can make a mobile tune or video prohibitive.

Bronfman’s criticism of mobile music’s complexity and pricing resonated with execs from around the media industry.

“We’ve got to improve the consumer experience,” concurred 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.”

Jamba, which sells under the Jamster brand in the U.S., markets mobile versions of News Corp. and Fox properties including “The Simpsons,” “24,” “Borat,” “American Idol,” “Prison Break” and “The Simple Life.” It also has a stable of music and games and other content from the big record labels and games providers and has partnered with News Corp. sister company MySpace to sell MySpace-related goods via the cellphone.

“I concur with Edgar on the idea of simplicity,” said Mika Salmi, president of Global Digital Media for MTV Networks. With its young audience, MTV seems a perfect match for the mobile viewers to watch content drawn from titles including “Pimp My Ride,” “Dirty Sanchez,” “South Park,” “Busta Moves,” Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Salmi said even “technically savvy” young audiences are finding it difficult to use clunky mobile entertainment services.

He also called for mobile operators to improve their communication of user patterns. “It has to be more transparent,” he said. “They get it in real time, we get it afterwards.”

In the fast, fickle and targeted world of mobile entertainment, it’s important for producers to know usage patterns as soon as possible. “Then we can create a better product,” Salmi said.

Although carriers and their 2 billion global customers make an obvious marketing outlet for entertainment companies, showbiz also is trying take direct control of the consumer — and revenues — through various means such as running its own mobile Web sites accessed independently of carrier-controlled portals (called decks in the U.S.) like Verizon Vcast and Vodafone live!

This is part of the tension between Big Entertainment and Big Telco as both chase what Juniper Research says could be a $76 billion mobile entertainment market by 2011.

News Corp., for instance, with its marketing muscle, is well positioned to drive users straight to the Jamba mobile site via the open mobile Internet.

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