Tag Archives: Digital Hollywood

Digital Hollywood: Mobile Commerce & Content

Santa Monica, CA—Last night I attended an opening event at Digital Hollywood, namely the party celebrating nominees for the upcoming Mobile Excellence Awards. At the Loew’s Hotel on the beach, guests were treated to a spectacular sunset, a view of the neon-lit Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica pier and, of course, drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Enthusiasm is high for the actual Mobile Excellence Awards, coming up on December 8th.

Today, I attended a panel on Mobile Commerce & Content, moderated by Steve Bradbury, GoTV vp of content strategy and business affairs and featuring panelists Cheng Wu, Azuki co-founder/chair; Brian K. Johnson, senior vp, Americas and Asia Pacific for mBlox; Larry Berkin, vp of ecosystem and corporate business development for ACCESS Systems Americas; Virgin Mobile USA director of brand development & partnerships Ron Faris and AirPlay Network chair/CEO Morgan Guenther.

GoTVs Steve Bradbury

GoTVs Steve Bradbury

At Loew's Hotel

At Loew's Hotel

Sorry to say I missed the first part of the panel but came in at a perfect moment: when the discussion turned to advertising. Moderator Bradbury asked panelists what advertising model will work in the next 6 to 18 months. “Now it’s the original model of TV: we’ll give you content to get you from one set of ads to the next,” he said.

Guenther agreed with the “TV model” assessment and pointed out that his company’s model was focused on the live event. “When there’s a pause in the action, you look at the mobile phone and match it up with what’s happening in movie theatre or TV screen,” he said. “It’s all abut pacing and what the customer is anticipating.”

Virgin Mobile USA’s Faris admitted that his company doesn’t have the scale, but instead has a niche focused on youth. “Reach and frequency are tenets of advertising, but to bring relevance we’ve had to bring depth of experience,” he said. “We’ve looked at different ways of advertising. When we launched Sugar Mama, a model where you watch content in exchange for free minutes, we didn’t thave the scale to be able to compete. We were up against Google, AOL and so on. We tried to bring in WAP banners and text blasts to bring up the numbers. They were great for reach, but for depth of engagement, which is what we’re using, we were reincarnating things that annoyed us on the web. The WAP banner is nothing more than a banner ad. Text blasts are nothing more than spam. Geo-targeting is great but why do I care? If I get a text blast for Nyquil and don’t have a cold, why should I care? From our perspective, you have to understand what’s relevant and create a deep engagement. I don’t want to keep going in this direction – we have to move into a sponsorship model.”

Berkin pointed out that everyone is in the early stages of mobile advertising. “I come from the download pay- for-application model. It’s a scale business.” He also revealed that ACCESS Systems Americas has created a widget platform that’s ad supported that will roll out on smart phones across the world.

Johnson noted that the text message ad-supported model has taken off. “We’re watching that carefully,” he said. “We see a big increase in free-mium, where you get something for free but maybe you’ll pay something more if you like it. Micro-payments are our biggest growing segment, for example to pay 99 cents to send someone virtual flowers. A mixture of micro payment and ads will pay for content.”

Azuki’s Cheng said that “the mobile ad ecosystem is completely fragmented and totally isolated from advertising.” “Mobile is different from desktop,” he said. “You can’t put 30-second ad for 30-seconds of content. Advertisers have an inventory of 30-second spots, so their resources aren’t fitting the mobile ecosystem.”

One panelist noted that “before we see a truly ad-funded content model, I’d like to see a flourishing one online. “We’re closer to having that scale in the online context, for music in particular,” he said. “There have been attempts for fully ad-funded models but the numbers don’t work. Content costs are steep, and we’re a ways off until we see truly ad-funded mobile content.”

The last word came from Bradbury who spoke about metrics. “Metrics in the online world stink. The numbers are inconcistent. Metrics have to be much more standardized and effective. The same thing in the mobile space, so you can go to a media buyer used to seeing things in a certain way and give them numbers they understand in order to justify putting money into a mobile buy. Then you’ve got a viable campaign. But, for now, metrics are still a big issue.”

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Producing and Monetizing Broadband Content

Digital Hollywood, May 5, 2008–Go shoot me – instead of going to a panel on the hardware and other technology at the base of enabling mobile TV and video, I went to one on producing and monetizing online or broadband content. Why? Broadband content was considered to be a wild and crazy thing not that long ago. Now, still wild but definitely not crazy. Although the path to mobile TV success may play out quite differently, it’s always instructive to learn from those who have gone before, even if it’s measurable by months not decades.

As I hoped, the panel was very instructive. First, the panelists represented a great group of new online studios–Vuguru and MyDamnChannel–that aren’t that different from film studios: creatives pitch ideas that subsequently get developed. Vuguru business executive Jane Hu pointed out that rather than getting a greenlight from an advertiser first, they try to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together at the same time. MySpace director of marketing & content Cristian Cussen reported they are piloting programming, spending on average $15,000 for three episodes, then internally reviewing them to see if they want to move forward. Then they take the episodes to advertisers to see if they can sell it and move forward. “It’s a low-risk way to proceed,” he said.

YouTube content partnership manager George Strompolos noted that although the company is pigeonholed for its cat videos, they partner with content creators of all kinds, including professional. “It’s a performance-based model,” he said. “If there are a lot of views, there is significant ad revenue.” Some content creators sell their own ad inventory on YouTube. With overlay ads, the content creator can determine who’ll be there, and it opens doors for selling ads.

Speaking from the advertiser point of view, Lori Schwartz, who is svp/director of emerging media at Interpublic Emerging Media Lab, said that ““once again, it’s the Wild West with no standard rules for engaging online” “It’s very confusing and a lot of my colleagues are a bit overwhelmed on who to go with – where does my budget come from? And especially premium content – where do I get that from? If I’m not from the broadcast side of the agency, I don’t have dollars to create content.”

Heavy.com vp of entertainment Jimmy Jellinek reported that they have found an extremely successful advertising model. Instead of cluttering up the page with buttons and banners, they deliver one brand impression, wrapping the player in that, increasing click-through dramatically. And it doesn’t interfere with the video you‘re trying to watch

MyDamn Channel’s Barnett said “it’s about not trying to overwhelm the audience,” and reported that the site is now lucky enough to keep people for up to 4 views per visit “because we’re offering a smaller amount (of videos) but higher quality. In the end, it’s brands, actors and characters that getaudiences and revenue. We passed 20 million views so we’re able to start talk advertisers – we’re bringing stars and consistency.”

Moderator Daniel Harris, chair/CEO of Mediapass Network asked what format the panelists are streaming in. Heavy.com’s Jellinek said all of them but noted the programs work best in Windows, not Mac. Hu noted that the various distributors take responsibility for encoding. But Flash was hands-down the most common format for distribution.

Next came questions from the audience. The conversation quickly turned to convincing wary advertisers that broadband content was worthy of their dollars. Ms. Schwartz talked about the benefits of a portal like Heavy.com. “When you’re talking to an advertisers about Heavy.com, it’s a specific portal where you are editorializing the content so I know who exactly will be there,” she said. “In this hyper-syndication model where you put video on every site, it’s harder for advertisers to know who their brand will be exposed to. Hyper-syndication loosens the brand.”

Discussing the download or transactional model versus ad–supported, Hu said “you have to offer something slightly different to get them to pay for the content. We did a deal where you could get the entire season plus some extra stuff for $9.99 from Amazon.”

Bottom line, broadband content creators and distributors are still trying to figure out which business model works and how. Sound familiar? MyDamnChannel’s Barnett brought the conversation back to why so many people are drawn to creating–and watching–broadband content. “We have Harry Shearer – he knew we’d sit down and agree what he would do and after that point he’s have total creative control,” he said. “Having done that, the networks are calling and want deals for content. But the onlyway it’ll work is if it’s independently created for this medium. The greatest thing about where we are now is the freedom.”

That’s another conversation for mobile content creators…

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