Apr 082006

Of the nineteen, yes 19, presentations I attended at this years Milia my favourite must have been the Mobility and Content: Entertainment Everywhere! Held in the Esterel on Thursday morning – this panel seemed to cover all the main emerging media issues with ease, not tied down to a specific theme they handled the revolution without resorting to too much retrospect. The other two panels in this area, MobiWars and Developing Cross-Platform content I refer to briefly below.

Mobility and Content was excellently set-up and moderated (in a flowing vs sequential way) by Jessica Sandin (Fathom Partners) and the particular combination of Patrick Walker (Google), Ilkka Raiskinen (Nokia), Paul Bennun (Somethin’ Else) and Gerard Grech (France Telecom) had most bases covered – content, search, telcos and mobile.

It didn’t get too toys-for-boys, gadget talk and I include a few quotes from the presenters from my audio notes.

Jessica Sandin 190 million broadband connections,

“Apple has fuelled the awareness of portable digital content…look at the figures in some more detail 42 million iPods by January,2006 1 billion songs via iTunes…23 songs per device, maybe iTunes not as big as we think…3 million video capable iPods equates to around 5 videos per device…but Apple has created an awareness about portable digital content….Looking at the whole mobile industry, mobile phones 2 billion, 42 million iPods, 50 million PSP’s not all are multimedia enabled – only around 4% are 3G…the jury is still out on how successful mobile entertainment will be.”

Has convergence happened or is it hype?

Paul Bennun ©Gary HayesPaul Bennun “The last time I came to Cannes I came to Milia. This it is MipTV featuring Milia so if you believe in the genius of the market convergence has happened”

Patrick Walker (after polling the audience) “Its definitely happening and it has been happening for a long time. We are all here representing companies that are reactive and proactive in serving consumer needs and they are demanding it, an exciting space to be in…the difference between then and now is that we are entering what I would call the perfect storm, bandwidth is increasing, the cost of bandwidth and devices are decreasing and the rights holders are being more flexible about delivering across platforms…”

There was a significant amount of obligatory discussion about reformatting and relevance to cross media devices and their strengths. This included talk about length of linear content, the associated ads and how many different versions you need to make. Ilkka from Nokia chirped in”

“I echo what is said early but will add some more data points. We have been running mobile TV pilots globally now and have received final results from four of the pilots, Spain, Finland, UK and France. Whats interesting is that the average viewing time is pretty stable at around 20 plus minutes per day…so as a content provider you need to optimise your portfolio to that experience. Also interesting is that it adds to the consumption patterns. Typically on TV you have the morning and evening TV peak and the mobile ad opportunities in-between to take advantage of that and it puts pressure on your content and services…”

Gerard Grech (France Telecom) “Talking about different formats for different devices a good example is when we did a recent sports event. We had HiDef MP4 on IPTV, then on PC with windows media and we had it streamed on packet video on mobile phones. The experience was different given the device that the consumer was accessing the content. On IPTV we had a very interesting mosaic with different camera angles, on mobile we had the highlights because we knew people were snacking and wanted to know what the score was and on PC it was between the two, people like to browse, read what other people have been saying about the game more community features…your formatting the content and what you wrap around the content to different devices and that is something you need to think about…if you propose something to an operator like us…think about what you offer but what else you offer in addition to that”

Then things got a little more interesting when distribution rights appeared in the discussion: a panellist came out with the standard “content once its created wants to go everywhere” Paul Bennun replied:

“over reliance on DRM is creating customer confusion, it means I can get it on this device and not that device, at this price point here and this one there…it is massively confusing, its massively restrictive and it is stunting the market, the way DRM is currently being deployed does not work.”

The metaphor of boats sailing by – that we are locking down content too restrictively and consumers are looking elsewhere turned into these being pirate boats and un-controlled super distribution. All panellists agreed that some content should be given away free, now particularly advertising full content. Illkka lightened the discussion with an exercise in definitions

“…different platforms with different rules. This is not a sustainable situation. I have been discussing with several people, what is this device (holding a Nokia N92, mobile TV, phone) is this a mobile phone or a mobile TV and then depending on what we decide there will be different rules….in different countries, different rules, historically we have attached rules to different distribution mechanisms…that whole paradigm is changing, consumers do not believe they are buying the content for the platform, they believe they are buying it for themselves. If that angle is not part of the discussion in how we solve this then we are creating a kind of priest-like ‘ohh this is a mobile tv, this is a phone’ it is going to be really really stupid”

The discussion moved via Google into people power, consumers driving prices and user generated content. Consumers will create stuff they want if we, the media, do not, because they can now. Google said their role is to simply facilitate this, suggesting I felt with or without the so-called professional media makers.

I asked a question about a converged device and what might be a common format device in the future, a communications device that acts as your mobile PVR with a few hundred GB of storage and can dock to larger screens, all your personal, vlog, feature film and TV content (they/we want content they own in their/our hand) – used my old iPod content-to-go model combined with mobile phone…Patrick from Google replied

patrick walker ©Gary Hayes “I would love one of those. You made a really important point when you talk about portability, mobility, you said dock it to the TV right. How many people have an iPod and have docked it to their stereo to get a higher fidelity sound at home or in a hotel? (All audience raise hands) See. You have really got to think about portability in terms of circumstance…storage devices are getting much less expensive. The storage for the PSP was more expensive than the device originally, that will change, the ability to store and take as long as the device has upgradable memory”

Illkka then did a sales act on me and said they have a dockable TV device using ORB to share and move content around via WiFi. Very cheap. Paul then pointed out the fact that automatically you can use RSS to capture content via bit torrent that will sync to your iPod completely illegally and many people are doing this already. Circumvents all business models being discussed in other panels. The boats are again leaving…the discussion went on in a lively way referring to mash-ups and the value of UGC etc:

Another panel in a similar domain was Mobiwars – content owners through to telcos and mobile virtual network operators…Mark Halper a Freelance Journalist had a few interesting opening tips and moderated a difficult panel very effectively. This one was how content producers can get money without going through a mobile operator portal:

1 – Distributing via text message, direct download
2 – Your own mobile portal – delivered via a mobile friendly website
3 – MVNO, mobile virtual network operator, rent mobile capacity to sell your content
4 – Rent wholesale access to networks – sell content at a fixed fee (not traffic fee)
5 – Transferring content via PC to phone
6 – WiFi signals,
7 – Using broadcast signals to get content to handsets
8 – Advertising sponsored content, without or within the operator portal

Overall the mobile TV, VOD panels suggested there is a great deal of confusion in the market highlighted by Ilkka from Nokia who said old distribution business models are being broken down and consumers are circumventing these in the market. What fun it is in the grey zone of media transition 😉

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006