Tag Archives: iPhone

Showtime’s Emmy Campaign Goes Mobile

Beginning this April, voting members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) will enjoy the exclusive ability to view full seasons of Showtime’s original series on their iPhones and iPodTouch devices. This is an industry first; the application developed and implemented by Transpera, a mobile video delivery and advertising network that has worked with Showtime on other projects. The password-protected application will allow voters to stream fullshowtime_4cl episodes directly to their handheld devices.Showtime also launched its password-protected website, developed with online video platform Brightcove, allowing voters to mark their ballots online.

Original Showtime series includes United States of Tara, Weeds, Dexter, The Tudors, Californication, Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, Brotherhood, This American Life, Penn & Teller: BULLSHIT! and The L Word.

“This year, by providing viewing access via iPhones and iPodTouch devices, Showtime continues to offer TV Academy members even more convenient opportunities to enjoy and consider SHOWTIME original programming,” said Richard Licata, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications for SHOWTIME

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Linux to Offer Seamless Mobile App & Content Sharing

Does Linux have a bright future in the mobile ecosystem? If you’re Andrew Shikiar, the director of global marketing for the LiMo Foundation, the answer is an emphatic yes. LiMo Foundation is an industryshikiar-21 consortium and non-profit corporation founded in 2007 and dedicated to creating an open, hardware-independent, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices. Shikiar sat down with MobilizedTV to talk about the foundation’s work and the future of Linux in the mobile ecosystem.image001

Which were the founding companies of LiMo?

The LiMo Foundation was founded by Motorola, Orange, NTT Docomo, NEC, Panasonic, Vodaphone and Samsung, a mix of operators and OEMs. All these companies that founded the organization had a history of delivering Linux-based handsets to consumers. What they quickly realized is that Linux is a powerful but fragmented technology for handsets, and that it made sense to find a layer of the operating system (O/S) on which they could collaborate while carving out room for differentiation and competition.

LiMo set out to create middleware part of the platform that would be common, that everyone could leverage and use, so that the rest of the mobile ecosystem could more efficiently create pertinent services and applications that would leverage that platform.

Give us some context to Linux as an operating system in the mobile arena.

There are so many operating systems, you can’t count the number of them in the mobile world. There are dozens of platforms. Your old phones had an input screen, they each had their own menu; the phone and O/S were one and the same. The idea you can implement a common O/S across devices really took root several years ago.There was no common platform until phones started getting smarter.

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Fox Reality Channel Launches On iPhone

Reality TV fans just got news that may have them rushing out to buy an iPhone. Fox Reality Channel, the all-reality, all-the-time cable/satellite network within the News Corp. with 50 million subs and climbing” just launched a WAP site for the first Apple iPhone mobile video service to feature reality-only content. “It was important for us to have video on the iPhone, which makes it easy to build community,” says Fox Reality Channel vp, business & operations, Ed Skolarus.

Fox Reality Channel is all about the video: Skolarus reports the channel does “over 170 hours of VOD on a lot of different platforms” including its exclusive partnership with Hulu and, for mobile users, a MediaFLO channel. “The iPhone is great for video,” he adds. “You can watch it and share it easily. Being in the video business, we’re about video advertising.”

That’s where Transpera, a platform for monetizing web videos on the mobile platform, comes in. “We power Fox Reality Mobile Video soup-to-nuts,” says Transpera founder/CEO Frank Barbieri. “They give us the videos and then we format them and deliver them to the iPhone along with targeted display and in-screen rich media ads like pre-rolls and overlays.” Current Transpera customers include MTV Networks, Discovery Networks, the Travel Channel, CBS News, Associated Press, and Accuweather.

Much of the content on the mobile Fox Reality Channel will be original, says Skolarus, who notes that they produce five original series a year as well as acquire content from Fox, CBS and NBC. Reality fans will get real-time updated information and original “bonus” content for original series “Battle of the Bods,” “2008 Fox Reality Channel Really Awards,” “Solitary,” “The Academy,” “Gimme My Reality Show!,” “Reality Binge,” and “Night Club Confessions.” A Send-to-Friend feature allows users to share their favorite video content mobile-to-mobile.

“Within the application, there are nine different categories, with 10 to 15 videos in each category, so it’s quite a lot of video,” says Skolarus. “My boss David Lyle, former president of Fremantle, understands that from the initial kick-off meeting you have to have the other platforms. involved. It’s not just repurposing what you have. It’s about having content shot for a lot of digital avenues.” Since its launch three years ago, Fox Reality Channel now has 2,500 digital episodes in the can.

For its original series, Fox Reality Channel has another crew working side-by-side the main crew, shooting content specifically for broadband, mobile and Hulu among other platforms. “It’s a big commitment,” he notes. “We’re lucky enough that reality is a good lean-forward experience with high engagement and it also skews well for iPhone.”

At time of launch, Skolarus and Barbieri declined to talk about specific advertisers, noting that many still play a wait-and-see game when it comes to new media. But Barbieri points out that mobile “gets higher engagement across the board.” “The mobile phone is such a personal device and commands so much attention of high-consuming audiences,” he says. “We see great recall numbers, great brand attribution numbers, much higher than on the web.”


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The Future of Mobile Browsing

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Skyfire CEO/co-founder Nitin Bhandari gave the conference’s last keynote address, on the future of mobile browsing. From his position at the head of Skyfire, a free, downloadable mobile web browser designed to make the mobile Internet experience identical to that on the PC, Bhandari identified what he called “mobile web megatrends.”

Nitin Bhandari

Nitin Bhandari

Is good mobile web browsing an oxymoron (with the exception of iPhone)? That’s the issue that got Bhandari motivated to create Skyfire. If you look at what has happened in the industry in the last few years, things have changed, he said. Three years ago, 45 seconds into a page load, your browser would crash. Two years ago, Nokia brought the webkit-based Minimap to market, highlighting the potential of full web on mobile. It was a phenomenon and a great credit to Nokia,” he said. One year ago, iPhone delivered on the promise of the mobile browser. Eighty percent of iPhone owners browse the web on a regular basis, he reported, and that’s an amazing statistic. “For the first time, the web browser is front and center,” he said.

Now, there’s a great deal of innovation in mobile browsers and the ease of mobile browsing has become a decision-making factor for consumers shopping for a mobile phone. Going back to the evolution, Bhandari pointed to WAP sites, with extremely limited experiences, no CSS or Javascript support, and proprietary markup languages. “Pages link to other pages on the Internet, and you didn’t get that here,” he said.

The mobile web was more, with HTML, and the user could accomplish transactions, such as getting scores on the ESPN site. The full web provides PC websites with HTML and Javascript, but no plug-in support. The concept of the PC web gives full PC website support with full plug-in support, including Flash, Quicktime, Real, WMF and Silverlight. “That’s the cusp we’re on now, moving to the PC web,” said Bhandari. He showed a chart of what products look like with PC web browsing.

Chart of content on devices

Chart of content on devices

“Better browsing is a disruptive force,” he said. “If you look at the entire lifecycle of creating, distributing, measuring and profiting. It has a profound impact on all of those” First, creating an app can be done two ways: looking for reach to many devices with limited engagement, or lots of engagement but to a limited range of devices. “This is no secret that the mobile world is highly fragmented,” he said. “Very quickly, you’re talking about millions of dollars.” The second way is to write a web app. “Flash is coming to all these mobile devices,” he said. “We have our way to bring it, and Adobe is working on their way. Then what you’ve created is leveraged across the PC and the mobile device. We believe everything is going to writing for the web. Write it once and run it everywhere.”

Discovery is better on the web, which levels the playing field, said Bhandari. The traditional model would focus on a biz dev team and staying on the deck, whereas open web search provides an effective marketing tool and advertising to acquire users is efficient. “It’s not mobile web, it’s mobile access to the web and there’s only one web,” he continued. “Yes, the screen is small and you might have to do something to optimize for the screen, but it’s still just one web.”

Do users prefer the mobile web or the full PC web? The jury is out, said Bhandari, although he admitted that he’s prejudiced. “Skyfire data says the full web,” he noted. “They can zoom, scroll and interact with the content. How many people will justify a mobile web budget? Very few people, so the concept of one web is great from the point of view of budget. Mobile web won’t just go away. The 90/10 rule applies: the massive amount of engagement will come from the top 10 percent of the devices, which are definitely becoming very capable.”

Widgets are another disruption. They moved to the web, but people began to question that. “If you add one more layer of fragmentation, it’s too much,” he said, “People are saying, why build a custom widget If I super-impose something else and it only reaches 4 percent of the market, why do it? Why not just build widgets as you do on the PC, with iGoogle, Netvibes or Facebook, which are all based on web standards?” Widget + Web = the best of push-pull experience, added Bhandari.

Bhandari stated that the definitions of content licensing will change. Once you’ve created a killer application, you need analytics, he added, and analytics are going to change. “Server-side analytics was a stop-gap, but now we support Javascript and AJAX,” he said. “We still need to know the device and carrier mapping, and we need to track new things like zooming and hotspots.”

Finally, advertising will change, into the model Bhandari called “OneAd.” “It will all start to converge, there’s no reason in the future for them to be silo-ed,” he said. “Mobile inventory isn’t unique because of LBS (location-based services). No, it also happens on the PC. That’s a myth that location makes mobile advertising different. There’s a myth that there are different ad units that work on a mobile screen. True, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There will be a convergence in terms of creativity and technology. Is mobile inventory unique because of downloads? Perhaps, because of different download files, but maybe not, because download files are different between Mac and PC, and no reason why it couldn’t be extended to mobile.”

He stressed that he doesn’t mean that the same ad will work on mobile and the PC, and talked about some of the things that don’t make sense on both platforms. “Rich advertising – if all units are treated as one, they can have interactive banners, pre-rolls, post-rolls,” he said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to converge these. If people are going to access web content through the phone, we need a new “zoom unit,” vector graphics or what have you, so the ad is legible is you zoom in or out. But there’s no reason why we as an industry can merge into one ad inventory system.”

The formula for profit: profit is in direct proportional to clicking intensity. Click intensity is related to page load speed and directly proportional to content support, including plug-ins. The user experience is nebulous but very important. “There’s a reason why people would rather use iPhone than…fill in the blank,” he said.

“Better mobile browsers are here and we can all profit from it,” he said. “The key is too much fragmentation makes it too expensive to do anything and no one makes any money. The more we bridge the gap between the PC and mobile world, the more we have the chance to make money.”


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TV on Mobile: Is there really an audience?

From Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Moderated by Skyfire‘s Ray Singh, QuickPlay‘s Mark Hyland, thePlatform (Comcast subsidiary) Chris Drake, GoldSpot Media‘s William Ganon and MobiTV‘s Kevin Grant discussed the state of mobile TV.

Mark Hyland (L), Chris Drake (C), William Ganon (R)

Mark Hyland (L), Chris Drake (C), William Ganon (R)

Singh suggested that there are numerous definitions for mobile TV, and asked Hyland what is definition is. Hyland broke it down into true broadcast and IP. “We see activity in all those things,” he said. “There has to be a sensible user experience. There’s an essence of content we’re all working for: it has more to do with communication. VOD, getting what you want when you want it, recommended by friends, is probably a pretty good way to work with mobile video today.”

Kytetv and mywaves are two ways that people are using to publish their own video, said Skyfire’s Singh. Why hasn’t that been [more] successful? Drake said that “we’ve limited mobile to just mobile.” “We’re seeing trends that content providers and media companies are thinking more holistically,” he said. “Yes, there are a lot of technology limitations, but it has to do with consumer awareness and accessibility. We’re starting to see more cross-promotion about what’s unique. It’s complementary to the website,”

If you look at the video space today, there’s content that people pay for, subscribe to and get for free. Is mobile advertising working? “I think mobile video advertising is starting to make its way into the mind of the consumer,” said Ganon. “It’ll probably be linked to whether the user thinks they’re getting value. There’s really not any one player that can do it all, but if operators can be flexible with their pricing scheme. If technologists can deliver a high quality experience, yeah, mobile has a really good future.”

How do you track engagement and what is a click through, asked Singh. Hyland said it was initially all downloads of premium video. “It took you two minutes to download and the operator would charge you $2, but early adopters did it,” he said. “As prices got cheaper and content got better…that’s an acid test. Then we moved into a subscription or streaming model, often bundled with a data plan. Essentially, instead of a nickel and dime model, it’s all you can eat. And we saw service explode with that. We see anywhere from one-quarter to one-half on any service engaging with us, and that’s an important metric. If they go south, that means they’re not getting value.”

Drake addressed the earlier question of what mobile video is. “We’ve seen a shift in the definition,” he said. “It was mainly streaming and occasionally downloading. But a lot of those variables have changed and so have the mobile phones. It could be a phone, an iPod Touch, etc. Content delivery has also changed and addresses some of the clogged network issues. This is still so early now and a lot of these issues and limitations are based on today’s levels, which will hopefully go away. We saw the same issues with broadband in the 1980s.”

Returning to the topic of advertising, he addressed GoldSpot Media’s Ganon. “There is no greater difference in a business than between zero and a penny,” he said. “The fact that people can look for content in an untethered environment – then we’ll see how much hours people watch, what shows they watch. The minute they know they have a $20/month pre-charge, it’s not a great landscape for television, The more free content we can get out, the more we inculcate people with the notion of watching video on the mobile.”

If you look at your TV at home, very few cable providers are offering it for free, pointed out MobiTV’s Grant. That business has been around for a long time. “I don’t think the ad budgets will triple,” he said. “These guys will still have a limited amount to spend, and we all have to cut into it.” Does MobiTV become an HBO? “What MobiTV does is we definitely use what we can out of the advertising space to subsidize the technology to make it work,” said Grant. “You don’t forkload mobile video on a mobile network without spending a big piece of cash. There’s a happy medium: you make free content available so people know it’s there, and you subsidize it with advertising. And you make premium content available for more. Advertisers can’t pay it all. From an ad perspective, it’s a miracle, because you know they’re watching the video when they’re watching video on the phone. We know they’re turning it off on their own. It’s compelling eyeballs. So we maximize the advertising spend to help the content providers and companies like us. But I don’t think it’ll be free, everywhere.”

Long-tail content hasn’t been a big player in the mobile space, noted Hyland. “We’ve been working with producers of Hispanic content, religious content–avid audiences but not big enough to make it on a carrier’s deck,” he said. “You have to blur the lines between on-deck and off-deck, so you can find it. But now it’s naturally skewed towards higher-end content.”

Mobisodes was a stage in the development of mobile content, observed Drake, on the way to developing made-for-mobile content. “We learned you can’t make programming from the footage left on the cutting room floor,” he said. “You have to take into consideration the consumer, where he is, what his user profile is. We’re seeing interesting things with our customers. CBSNews is doing a lot with consumer journalism, for example. The paradigm shift is changing from one-to-many to many-to-many, with users sharing content, tagging it.”

Talking about mobile ads, Ganon noted the general consensus that 30-seconds is a little too long. “If we don’t bring an interesting solution to this game, we can just forget about it,” he said. “If you make targeted TV, that’s an interesting discussion. The mobile audience has no tolerance for the ad-roll.”

MobiTV’s Grant noted that he’s seeing the minutes that customers are watching grow at a much greater rate than the number of new customers, especially election and financial news. “They’re aware of the fact that they have this on their phone,” he said. “The fact that the minutes are growing is good across the board. News has been amazing lately. You don’t see a debate double our minutes. The size of the minutes is so large it would take a pretty big feed to double the minutes. The Olympics is the Holy Grail of content, but that was a unique channel and it did really really well, but it didn’t necessarily double our minutes. All boats are rising. The long-tail is so important. You need the big brands, and long-form like “Ugly Betty” does very well. A lot of people in our base are religiously watching these things. We haven’t opened up the YouTube library or mywaves, because we work with carriers and their restrictions. But big brands bring them in and long-tail reduces churn and keeps them there.”

Hyland reported that we’ll see numerous different models for introducing and paying for video; handset manufacturers will subsidize some of it. “Awareness and pricing are two big barriers to mobile adoption, but there’s a lot of opportunities to package it up differently,” he said. “If you can package video with the phone, it’ll make much higher usage. The day pass or the “free previews and sign up for 20 clips” will be two of those models. Lots of experimentation and no answers formed yet.”

Singh asked panelists to describe what people are watching. Ganon said he worked at MediaFLO and “if it’s live, breaking now” it’s big; sports seems to be a big draw, if you can get the access/rights. “We had experiments where people were watching movie,” he said. With the iPhone, we hear that people are sitting and browsing for an hour, said Singh, who asked if people are really watching movies on the mobile phone. “It’s difficult for me to comment but anecdotally we see different levels and types of usage depending on how the user is discovering and accessing that content,” said Drake. “We’re seeing content that’s being side-loaded which gives a better user experience. We’re seeing long-tail video like a Homer Simpson video. Then there’s the discovery around genre-based content. The ability to set content alerts is also at work.”

The iPhone has done a lot to let people know that they can go on the Internet. “We’re seeing an awareness factor,” said Grant. “We’ll start to see some big numbers.” Singh finally asked: what’s your favorite mobile TV show and what do you see in the future?

Chris Drake said he loves Sony Pictures Television International‘s minisodes, which creates 5-minute versions of classic TV shows. Hyland likes “Entourage” on mobile. Ganon, who watches YouTube, thinks the DTV transition will be a game-changer. Grant says his favorite show is “The Office” and CNBC on mobile.

“If you look at access to the Internet, alot of it will be wireless in a little while,” he said. “And that’s where we see huge opportunities for growth, with all kinds of mobile devices. We’re very keen on this market but it’s a long term battle.”

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Open Access: What Does it Really Mean?

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Moderated by Frank Bernhard of OMNI Consulting Group, the panel included Andrew Shikiar of the LiMo Foundation, Sagar Golla of AppVoyage, Faraz Syed of DeviceAnywhere and Michael Kurtzman of Sybase 365.

Shikiar (left), Golla (center), Syed (right)

Shikiar (left), Golla (center), Syed (right)

The LiMo Foundation was launched in February 2007 by six leaders in the mobile industry; three key goals are centered around creating a mobile platform centered around Linux. “There are three key areas we’ve had our eye on,” he said. “The first is to engage with the mobile industry, and our organization now has 50 active members. Secondly, the platform itself has been developed, with the first version finished and second version ready by end of this year. The third goal has been to distribute devices into the marketplace. We’ve quietly introduced 23 LiMo handsets to different markets, now in the hands of tens of millions of consumers. We’ve been expanding the LiMo ecosystem, and now see interest from mobile content providers and many others.”

Golla described AppVoyage as a mobile web application gateway to simplify and personalize complex
web applications for mobile use, providing an ecosystem with personalization so that people can engage in mobile applications. DeviceAnywhere, said Syed, enables remote testing of mobile content on 1,500 devices. “We see an increasing surge of interest in the mobile Internet,” he added. “It started with the iPhone and now with all the other similar phones coming out. It’s encouraging people to browse, whereas in the past it was mainly downloadable media.”

Sybase 365, the mobile subsidiary of Sybase, has a primary focus on a couple of areas: one of them is inter-carrier messaging, mobile banking and connecting content providers to carriers. Kurtzman related that he works in the mobile marketing group.

Bernhard made a pitch for OMNI’s publication, slated for release in January 2009. Mobility and Factors Driving the Broadband Economy will show how consumers are using the devices. “The work we do is based around econometrics,” he explained. “It’s important to get the historical perspective as well as looking forward. We look at subscriber profiles, service provider scales and where voice, data and mobile content is going.”

Convergence of platforms was the first topic addressed. “What we’re seeing is that while handset manufacturers are still trying to differentiate themselves, there’s also convergence,” said Syed. “More developers are focusing on limited sets of platforms or operating systems. At the same time, we’re also seeing increasing fragmentation. When Apple comes out with iPhone and Android and LiMo…all these smart phone platforms are gaining ground. The other proprietary platforms are still there and growing. From what I can tell, I don’t see the market collapsing into a few standard platforms, but more developers are focusing on the smart platforms.”

Shikiar noted that Linux phones have been in the market for years but that the LiMo foundation is designed to standardize the operating system for all Linux-based phones. “In addition this is creating greater efficiencies inside companies,” he said. “We’re seeing a move towards consolidation here.” Sybase 365 Kurtzman asked how we get the rest of the handset market to follow. “The demand and opportunity is to find a forum where all the parties can communicate in a fair and open way,” Shikiar said. “Governance doesn’t sound exciting but it’s the key to collaboration and to the model itself. It’s imperative that the OS reflects a number of companies and interested parties in the mobile ecosystem.”

The smart phone evolution creates a new user paradigm of mobility, said Bernhard, who asked how the device itself can come to fruition. Syed said the biggest promise of the smart phone is to enable a better mobile Internet experience. “People will start shifting away from downloadable stuff,” he said. “These smarter platforms are powerful enough to deliver a rich experience over a web platform. On the other side, how do you leverage their capabilities? Creating awareness in the consumer space about what’s available is also needed. Most people aren’t aware of what’s available. Apple’s app store brought awareness to all these great apps that could be downloading. Marketing channels and discovery mechanisms that are more cutting edge is needed for smart phones.”

Content rights and digital rights management was another topic that the panelists addressed. The discussion quickly turned to privacy rights. Kurtzman noted that there are two schools of thought. “That if a user wants to make their information made public, their actions can be tracked to a certain degree, as long as it’s relevant,” he added. “There’s a good case for being able to share that information.” Security is an important aspect of his company’s work, said Golla, who pointed out the other “case” to be made for privacy issues. “If you don’t respect consumer privacy, no one will come to you,” he said.

Bernhard asked what strategic role the industry plays in determining the future of application and device standards. “Very honestly, handset manufacturers wants to participate in standards bodies, but the fundamental thing they’re also trying to do is differentiate themselves from one another,” said Syed. “My feeling is that any kind of standardization in the hardware is far from reality. I don’t see standardization taking over the industry quite yet.” [As Kurtzman noted, DeviceAnywhere is predicated on that lack of standardization.]

“We tend to not see that reverse flow of information coming from subscribers telling us what they need and want,” said Kurtzman. “It’s from the top to the bottom.” With Google Android being launched, Bernhard asked Shikiar what will happen with competition. “Android is an example of how Linux is relevant,” he said. “We think openness is a profound trend that the industry is moving towards. I believe people will begin to understand the importance of a truly collaborative, equal forum where all companies can collaborate for a common code layer to be implemented across devices.”

How change is impacting the relationship of carriers to application providers was addressed by Kurtzman. “The carriers want the garden walls to fall,” he said. “They see the future. We think they’re resistant to change, but it’s just hard to change. The direct relationship between the app provider to the consumer is a chicken-and-egg scenario and I don’t know how you fix it so it’s more like a PC experience. No one calls their Internet provider if the application doesn’t work. But it’s a different environment. Maybe we need a consortium to help educate the consumer that he or she can get to these applications directly.”

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Streaming Video to the Mobile Consumer

San Jose, CA—Moderated by Keynote Systems’ senior director Manny Gonzalez, the panel included Babak Jafarian, co-founder/chief strategy officer of Ortiva Wireless, Daren Gill, vp/gm of Veveo and Andrew McFarlane, co-founder/CEO of Buzzwire.

Jafarian, whose company optimizes content for the mobile platform, talked about some of the challenges in an environment in which the price of streaming video doesn’t justify the revenues generated–but also stressed the iPhone as a game-changer for video on the phone. “We’re burning more of the resources are being burned for video, which isn’t our cash cow,” he says. “We’ve seen the phenomenon of iPhone which brings the nice idea of the off-deck attitude. Let other people create content and consider the wireless operator as the pipe.”

Video quality is another issue, since content distributors often optimize the video for the lowest-common denominator handset. “With a device as small and unreliable as a phone, you have problems,” he said. “Video is the first time mobile carriers are moving from a real-time service into a packet data network, which is challenging.”

He suggested that rather seeing the mobile platform as the third screen, that we might think of it as its own unique environment. “We should define the type of quality in a proper manner and allocate the most important thing with the least resources,” he said. “This isn’t as straight forward as creating video for TV and the web and then streaming it through the mobile handset.”

Gill, whose company is all about content discovery, pointed out how web video is the most discoverable video; TV and mobile are both difficult platforms for finding video. The fact that most mobile phones don’t play video also cuts down on the viral nature. “Transcoding for delivery is a “necessary evil” of the day,” he admitted. “It’s not something that we like to do so more and more we’re finding the content available in mobile-ready form. This is definitely one of the challenges.

One of the realities of web video is that it is all about choice, said Gill who reported that there are 220 million videos on the web, from 150,000 sources, whereas both TV and mobile are limited to 10,000 to 50,000 titles from 200 sources. “Consumers aren’t about walled gardens,” he said. “You have to deliver them choice. The things that people want to watch don’t exist in one silo.Does popularity equal relevance? Yes, to start off with. But you need to put a structure on top of that.” He described Veveo’s structure for finding media, which was based not simply on the UGC world but a variety of other sources. “So you can leverage an existing taxonomy, leverage the social graph on UGC sites and make it easier to find what you want on new platforms,” he said about the application, vtap, which is available on the mobile browser at m.vtap.com or with vtap clients for Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian and J2ME.

Buzzwire’s McFarlane talked about the fact that ultimately the users will decide what the most interesting content is, as carriers break down the wall. Users will decide what’s most interesting. “Content players will have to respond to that. We offer the ability to customize the experience.”

Killing time or saving times are the two “needs” that people turn to the mobile phone to fulfill, agreed Gill, who noted that the use of smart phones–particularly iPhone and Blackberry, will shake things up. But what will really tip the video market on the mobile phone is unlimited data plans. “If you get a situation where someone has the phone and an unlimited data plan, it’ll work,” he said. “Getting to that point is the trick. The content will follow.”

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The Future of News is Mobile

San Jose, CA—I’m at the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo here for the new two days, publishing live reports. First up is a keynote by Associated Press GM of mobile and emerging products Jeffrey Litvack, someone we interviewed in the pages of MobilizedTV six months ago.

Litvack started by speaking about what mobile means to newspapers, which he said is the next-generation revenue producer for publishers. But sorting through how to do it and figure out the parameters as well as how to market it to potential readers and make sure advertisers are getting the return they need are just some of the problems facing newspapers.

Jeff Litvack, Associated Press

Jeff Litvack, Associated Press

He focused on the iPhone as a seminal event, with the size of the screen, the touchscreen and the use of icons as well as the browser. “We’re moving away from WAP,” he says. “Mobile web is simpler and easier to understand. It’s a similar experience to the Internet.”

A study showed that most mobile users want news…but there’s no icon on the iPhone for news. The Mobile News Network from AP was created to address this gap in the mobile environment. First goal was to make it a good user experience.

Working on a GUI that was customizable and easy to share for users was the first order of business. Then Associated Press built a comprehensive news network; they currently handle news for 80 percent of the U.S. newspapers, including smaller local newspapers. iPhone users have been able to rate applications, says Litvack, and one reviewer said “it’s like a newspaper in your phone.” “As far as we’re concerned mobile is the killer app,” he says. “We’ve had more than 400,000 unique visitors in August–and this is just on the iPhone.” He reported that they’re planning to roll out more and more versions for different phones. Page views have grown dramatically from May (2.1 million) to September (26 million).

With regard to how they’re making money, Litvack noted that news should be delivered free. “We made a conscious decision that news on the iphone had to be complete,” he says. “Not just a headline where you’d click and go to someone else’s website. The user had to have a complete experience, without getting confused.” AP invested millions into ingesting and displaying content into one unified solution for the end user at was complete and consistent. “We’ll give them the whole story and then let them decide how much of it they wanted,” he says.

Most important categories are top stories (29 percent), local news (18 percent), sports (12 percent) and entertainment (9 percent). Other top categories are photos, wacky news (a popular click-through category) and world news.

How AP begins to monetize this is the next big challenge. Display advertising is projected to grow from $54 million to $1.1 billion by 2012 (Yankee Group). The ads have a recall rate similar to TV, he also reported (IAG May 2008). “It’s definitely working, for brand awareness and aiding purchasing as a whole,” he says. “We see a higher ROI for the advertiser.” It also allows interactive marketing opportunities, he notes. Message to mobile users can also be targeted [see MobilizedTV article on mobile targeting advertising.]

AP will be adding new categories including movie reviews, restaurant guides, event listings, weather and traffic. Future features include a news ticker, multi-lingual versions and international partnerships.

“A lot of what we’re talking about is the smart phone,” he says. “AP made a big bet on the smart phone. People asked us why we did that, and we did it because it’s going to grow. In 5 years, it’s expected that smart phones will be 75 to 80 percent of the market. This is where the market is going.”

Litvack says AP has also reached out to a variety of handset manufacturers to create more optimized versions. “Our goal, simply put, is to become the news button on every next-generation phone,” he says.

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Adult Content and the Mobile Phone

It’s a truism that all new media is driven first by pornography. If you remember 16mm stag films or have seen “Boogie Nights,” you might agree.

The carriers’ grip on mobile content has prevented that from happening on the mobile phone in the U.S. (even as Playboy Mobile’s Ed Lang reported the XXX content streaming on European phones).

But, from my vantage point (and I worked for a post production company that was a hub of the San Fernando Valley-based porn industry–another story for another time), it has always been just a matter of time before the world of porn and the mobile phone got together. It’s worth noting how the porn industry has changed: the advent of cheap digital cameras moved the industry from an insular, some would say mob-controlled, domain to amateur night.

Now, a news item in Advertising Age reports the rude shock that CBS got when the network’s iPhone app, Eyemobile for iPhone was used to provide visuals of much more than local news stories (apparently the risque images/ads have been removed). The article goes on to talk about what led to the slip-up, which is of much less interest to me than the fact that it happened at all. Garden walls or not, as the potential revenues from mobile video content soars, those sneaky porn-meisters are going to find a way to go mobile.


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Miss Playboy Mobile: First Step in a Global Mobile Strategy

In April this year at CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas, Playboy Mobile announced Miss Playboy Mobile 2008, sponsored by THQ Wireless and Viva! Vision.

With carriers in control of content, adult content has been largely shut out of the mobile content game in the most obvious way. Yet, without fanfare, Playboy has expanded its reach in mobile, in 50+ countries and well over 80 carriers.

Playboy Mobile took a much higher profile here with the April announcement about Miss Playboy Mobile. I spoke with Ed Lang, SVP and GM, Mobile and International Online, Playboy Enterprises and a veteran in the wireless industry, to find out how Playboy can both maintain its brand and meet the PG-13 requirements of the mobile platform.

MobilizedTV: How do you stay true to the Playboy brand in a mobile environment that restricts adult content?

LANG: We do have an interesting split in how we distribute our content. International strategy is different than U.S. strategy. Some countries are more conservative, the U.S. being one of the most conservative countries. Here, they only allow PG-13 content, which disallows even models modeling clothing in a particular way, anything at all sexually suggestive. A lot of territories in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are also conservative. Europe is the most receptive to that content. They allow streaming XXX content in those territories. The bulk of adult business is in Europe.

How do you promote the Playboy brand in the U.S.?

We knew we needed to focus the brand into its more traditional and aspirational areas, which is the lifestyle side it’s been over the last 50 years, the lifestyle associated with someone who’d buy the Playboy magazine. We created a Playboy experience, with fashion and design elements.

That decision was made a couple of years ago and we initially weren’t leveraging the full breadth of the brand in our digital media. The company realized there were other areas to be competitive in in the mobile space, rather than being pigeon-holed. I realized the editorial voice of Playboy is so strong and we demonstrated the depth and breadth of the brand in the U.S., not just to consumers but to carriers. We felt we didn’t necessarily have to fall in the stereotype; there was no reason why we should accept the brand positioning being set by other people.

How did that position evolve?

About one year into my job we made the decision to go out to the direct-to-consumer market and prove that theory. Rather than direct carrier deals, we launched initiatives relating to consumers. Really, the greatest effort to demonstrate the lifestyle was to launch our model search. Other people had done similar things, so we had the benefit of looking at that and thinking of how we could differentiate ourselves. Last year, we launched an ambitious project around Miss Playboy Mobile, to find a non-nude contestant who would the crown winner.

Amber - contestant and ultimate winner

Amber - contestant and ultimate winner

We crowned her at the April CTIA Wireless conference. It was well attended and we demonstrated the ability to pull off a gender-friendly event with a viral component. It also went cross-platform, starting as mobile initiative and moving into social media on the computer.

Miss Playboy Mobile contestants

Miss Playboy Mobile contestants

Miss Playboy Mobile - the winner!

Miss Playboy Mobile - the winner!

That led to a partnership with mywaves. We’re expanding the strategy of syndicating our content with social media on the phone, so you’ll hear about more deals in this space. Mywaves is Playboy’s first ad-supported, mobile-content distribution deal to handle syndication of a content channel.

I understand you also came out with an iPhone version of your WAP site?

Yes, when the iPhone came out earlier this year, we launched a WAP site optimized for the iPhone that will leverage the 3G version of the phone. That will stay a one-off decision. I’m not interested in optimizing for multiple handsets. But there’s a “thing” happening around the iPhone and we didn’t want to be on the sidelines.

The iPhone site features an immersive experience including “Playboy-on-the-Scene” footage from lifestyle-based projects. iPlayboy contains mobile-specific features such as “Battle of the Sexiest,” “Playboy Radio,” and “Scout,” a blog on sex, dating, and other lifestyle topics. iPlayboy is an ad-supported site which will be upgraded continuously to include social/community involvement, a content storefront, and other feature introductions, integrating the iPhone experience with Playboy Mobile’s PC experience.

What have you learned from the Miss Playboy Mobile experience?

Our three-pronged approach is our mobile internet site; syndicating our content out to mobile social networks, and a yet-to-be-announced comprehensive messaging strategy. Basically, we’ve done enough deals with enough depth to do both free, ad-supported content and premium content, with every type of messaging solution you can have. This will be a big deal for us, because previously we’d only done short code. We’ll integrate messaging between how we syndicate our content out, our mobile site, and how we interact with it online and with social media. The idea being that every one of those places that people can interact with the brand, they’ll be one click away from our messaging strategy, which will lead you to discover everything in the network.

When do you expect to be able to monetize the mobile portion of the strategy?

We’re already making revenue from ad sales on the mobile site. When you monetize what we’re doing across product offerings, we think this will work from an ad-generating place alone. Each one of these three prongs will eventually have a premium area with an up-sale for more premium service or content. What Playboy is aspiring to do is deliver value. We’re in the process of coming up with unique content offerings that people haven’t seen before. We are trying to push the envelope by bringing out things that we believe haven’t been done in the past.

One example is that we recently decided to go into the mobile original content area and we have our first series we’re going to put out. The way we approached it is very different. We figured out how to integrate the divisions of the company, ranging from TV to the magazine and our sponsor ad partners. How we’re releasing it is also unique. We thought about integrated marketing. It won’t be video with a pre-roll or post-roll. We said, Let’s go for integrated marketing, product placement, just like TV, and that’s the elements we did.

To finish it off, we just announced that we’re in the planning stages of taking the Miss Playboy Mobile competition global. I have no less aspiration than attempting to pull off something that’s never been done before. We’re ambitious in the number of territories, the interactions, to integrate sponsors into the competition and the abilty to run it on online and mobile with a heavy social media element. We set our sights on the bigger campaigns and want to improve on it. We have localized partners that produce products and content for us: 26 local magazine publishers that publish local editions, TV stations that add to our broadcasts, digital partners who represent us in certain regions. Leveraging those partnerships allows us to customize and localize for the global Miss Playboy Mobile. Localized competitions feed into the regionalized and then ultimately global competition. There are sponsorship opportunities at each level and we continue to target both men and women. We look at top social media networks in all the different global regions and we’ll try to extend a widget or application to those, in the native language. It’s an ambitious project and the targeted time frame will be Q1 2009 with target party at CTIA Wireless in April.

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