This year is seen as something of a make or break period for mobile content, and on Wednesday content came to the fore of 3GSM. MTV’s first appearance at the forum was seen as a significant event for the mobile content industry. MTV’s chief digital officer, Jason Hirschhorn, told a keynote audience (that was almost as big as the one that turned up for Steve Ballmer’s speech the day before) that adoption of an advertising-supported model was vital for mobile video to become a truly mass market medium.
Hirschhorn got a few laughs by joking he’d “like to partner with our competitors... and take them hunting with Dick Cheney”. But the image of a woman eating a bug, shown by Endemol’s chief creative officer Peter Bazalgette, was (regretfully) one of the most memorable images I took away from the content keynote session.
Speaking to the FT later, MTV’s Hirshhorn said he expected advertising-supported content to first be explored as one-off video clips before moving regular broadcasts were made.
It would have to be done carefully, however. People might be happy to view free content in return for sitting through some advertisements, but inserting ads between every piece of content might not work, especially as each segment of content is usually only a few minutes long. For the same reason, the traditional 30-second TV advertisement wasn’t likely to be replicated, he said.
Direct-to-consumer sales, in which the mobile operators are bypassed - was one theme that had content providers most excited. Ringtones are a prime example of where operators have missed out on a lot of content sales, while numerous smaller companies have been hugely successful.
Patrick Parodi, the chair of the Mobile Entertainment Forum, said the introduction of uniform tariffs from the 3G network operators for video shortcodes, which looks likely to happen soon, would spur more uptake of direct downloads. But he said this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the network operators.
Rather than being threatened by the direct video downloads, he said, the 3G operators appreciated that driving growth in video-handset take-up would encourage growth in video telephony, which they wholly control.
Still in the entertainment scene, it was also the day that celebrities jumped on board the mobile blogging bandwagon. Actors Juliette Lewis and David Arquette are among a handful who are participating in a new subscription service from Blogstar announced on Wednesday.