Nov 122005

Monument Valley ©Gary Hayes 2005Sorry for the gap in posts, been finding out how and why Australia’s media landscape is the way it is at this years inaugural ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) conference in Canberra. Will post some of my thoughts about it over next few days – needless to say not a bed of roses. Before that though a few catch-up posts. It is always useful to get some real research in-between the hype of new trends. TV and other video content on mobile phones is a key one at the moment and this report from mobinet across 4000 users in UK and 20 other countries suggests this may also not be a bed of roses, in fact demand is very low. The article “Splash of cold water on mobile media” in media life points out

The question is, what will they download? The answer, hardly a surprise, is news. Far fewer will download entertainment.
Further, the U.S. market for downloadable TV is likely to remain tiny for many years, with relatively few cell phone users bothering to take advantage of the feature. As in so many areas of media, the fact that a technology exists to do something doesn’t mean consumers will rush to adopt it. In the case of downloadable TV, they will not.(snip)
The study found that cell phone subscribers in North America were the least interested in TV content. Only 6 percent said they’re willing to pay to download TV clips.

I never suspected the US to be leading in this field – they rarely do, it is often small pockets in Europe or Asia that lead consumer trends in emerging media and the US and Australia tend to lag but follow with new business models and then say they started the trend (ready for flames ;-). The low demand though for mobile downloads may come as a surprise to my many tens of readers but the article does go on to say that downloading shows out of schedule may be undesired but timely news and sports are still in with a fighting chance.

Among all those surveyed, 49 percent said their first choice would be news clips. Sports came in a distant second at 17 percent. Entertainment followed, with music videos at 16 percent, movies, 9 percent, and TV soap operas and reality shows, 8 percent.
“The thing that you need for wireless is content that is time-sensitive,” says Ranjan Mishra, principal of the communications and media practice at A.T. Kearney.
“If you can wait until you reach your office or home, you are most likely not going to watch it on a cell phone. That’s why the applications that are time-sensitive, like news and sports, fit very well. There is a value to that.”
Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research in Boonton, N.J., agrees.
“This is an adjunct to a television news service. I find it curious that anyone would want to watch a television clip that doesn’t have a real-time value to it. A sports broadcast I can understand.”

So a bit like the early days of interactive TV where the first service I made was in fact a timely 1000 pages of news, graphics surrounding the TV service – a dip in, dip out, get the updates and go, type service. Seems this will be the same on mobiles for the first few years. Sport will always be a big driver across all ‘interactive’ platforms, because there is often so much back-story (stats, gossip, prediction) that you need to contextualise the experience. There still needs to be work done now though in documentary, entertainment and drama for mobile delivery that breaks the current trend to just download a whole episode of a TV show. It really bugs me when people wander round showing off an episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ on a mobile phone or PSP. Really bugs me. Reminds me of those sort of people in the 80/90s who used to show me how their laptop could play a CD/DVD disc, or how their PDA could play a violent animation – wow, clever stuff. Engaging, not. We need to create innovative new form services that cross platforms and engage, the mobile phone is only one part of the jigsaw. There may be some time left yet though:

Still, the advent of TV shows on iPods and new video-on-demand services from CBS and NBC suggest that the market may be ripening for cell phone services to offer downloadable television clips and commercials.
Moreover, the number of cell phone subscribers using non-voice features is dramatically increasing. Mobinet found that 48 percent of subscribers in this country, versus 53 percent worldwide, now have third-generation phones with multimedia capabilities such as internet access and cameras. That is up from only 37 percent last year, when penetration in the U.S. trailed the global average by 12 points.

Emerging media creatives need to get ahead of those who will disenfranchise the market by simply dumping the same content that we get on broadband, TV, DVD, video across to mobiles. Demand will only be as strong as the perceived experience users will expect – here is the simplest analogy “Would you expect people to buy bottles of tap water?” – I suspect maybe there will still be a crazy 8% who would, but I hope you get my point.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005