Tag Archives: mobile entertainment

Happy New Year!

Dear Readers: I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Ready or not, it’s 2009.

I’ve been reading some of the doom-and-gloom scenarios surrounding mobile content’s prospects in the coming year. Those predictions have had me thinking about two very disparate events that I think paint a bigger and more accurate picture of where mobile content, mobile TV, mobile entertainment fits in the coming year.

One is the possibility of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild. If you’re reading this from Hollywood, you no doubt are already an expert in the stand-off, as two factions of the Guild push and pull for authorizing a strike. I won’t bore you with the details of the potential strike or its impact on the Hollywood film/TV industry. If you’re interested in that, feel free to google it and you’ll find a treasure trove of information.

What interests me is what the Screen Actors Guild membership and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television producers are fighting over. In a nutshell, the actors want residuals for the TV shows/films that, in some form, end up on the Internet. The idea goes, if it benefits the studios, it should benefit the actors. The studios/producers argue that they’re not profiting from Internet content (yet), therefore they can’t promise residuals.Although the argument is over “new media,” it really boils down to the Internet, with perhaps a whiff of consciousness about the potential of the mobile platform.

But that is a false paradigm. In the not-so-distant future, content will, to a large degree, be platform-agnostic. We’ll be able to cache it at home and move it fairly seamlessly between TV receivers, PC monitors and, yes, mobile platforms. Content will not be so clearly created for one medium and then repurposed for others. In a future of seamless connectivity, you (the viewer) may never know what platform it was created for first and if it’s entertaining, you won’t care.

This is a pretty terrifying prospect for the studios, which are built on a linear, top-down model and notorious for their lack of nimbleness. I’m most definitely not saying that the future of entertainment belongs to anybody with a digital camera. Let’s hope the future of entertainment rises above the majority of the videos found on YouTube. We don’t know much about the future model(s) for distribution of professionally produced content, but I do believe it will be much less hierarchical.

A fight over how many pennies are being made or could be made from Internet distribution is ultimately a futile one. It’s a lot bigger than the Internet. Professional actors, writers and other creatives should be fairly compensated for their work. Just trying to keep track of who’s watching it where is going to get a lot more complicated.

In that same mode, for the years that the giant electronics manufacturers fought it out between HD DVD and BluRay, I believed the battle was a moot point. I’m not saying that physical media will disappear in this new connected entertainment environment, but it’s going to be a lot less important. BluRay “won” the wars for the next-gen High Definition digital media format. But its victory may be very short-lived as people gravitate to downloading movies and other entertainment…and watching on whatever platform they choose.

So, back to the dire predictions for mobile entertainment in 2009 in the U.S. I doubt that mobile entertainment will ever arrive as a “splash” of exciting new technology. I don’t know if we’ll have “the year that mobile TV arrived.” (If so, I agree with the pundits that it won’t happen in 2009.) But maybe our interaction with content will shift in fits and starts, gradually enough, that we–or at least the teenagers we know–will be accessing content on a mobile platform and forget we were supposed to be amazed.

Coming up for 2009:

Look for:

* The next mobile installment of filmmaker L.M. Kit Carson’s “Africa Diaries,” with a story of the latest Nokia N95 production he shot in Zambia for The Sundance Channel.

* My coverage at the Consumer Electronics Show tomorrow morning and hope to cover bits and pieces of it!

And, drum roll please, MobilizedTV is on the verge of a format change. The new MobilizedTV – which I hope will appear in the next week or two — will be easier to navigate and feature video. I’ll look forward to your feedback.

All best wishes for a happy, healthy 2009.

And thanks for reading and supporting MobilizedTV.

Best regards,

Debra Kaufman

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Nokia Opens Hollywood Research Center

This morning, Nokia announced it has just opened a Nokia Research Center in Hollywood, headed by Rebecca Allen, who founded the Design/Media Arts Department at UCLA and previously held positions a rebeccaallen20041senior research scientist at MIT Media Lab Europe and “3D visionary” at Virgin Interactive Entertainment.

Other universities and research centers that Nokia Research Center collaborates with include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in the US, the University of Cambridge, UK and Tsinghua University, China.

MobilizedTV interviewed Allen about the mission of the NRC and its potential relationships with and impact on the Hollywood film/TV industry.

MobilizedTV: Tell us a little about your background and how that serves you in your new position with Nokia.

Rebecca Allen: I joined Nokia in July of this year. I’ve spent many years at UCLA where I founded the Design and Media Arts Dept. For another 30 years I have been involved in emerging technolgies, particularly related to media and, as an artist and designer. I approach new technologies through my interest as an artist and designer but am also involved in and have fairly good knowledge of the technology as well. My feeling is if you want to do something creative with new technologies, you have to dig in and understand the tools. The better you know your tools, the more innovative things you can do with them. I also taught from way back that it was going to be important to have artists involved with these new tech were and have some kind of impact and influence on them, which is what got me to dive into research labs.

For me, it was an ideal job description. It’s rare that I can utilize the different parts of my hybrid background, and they were looking for someone with strong academic background in LA and with long-time experience working with media technologies in a research context. And they also wanted someone who was connected to the Hollywood community and that was something I felt comfortable with. And someone with a design background, or some knowledge of the design side. It is so rare to see a job description looking for these multi-disciplinary parts and exciting that I could bring experience to all these different areas.

MTV: What will the research center be doing? What’s your mandate?

RA: Our general mission is to look at what is unique about mobile media and where it might go in the future. Another nice thing, being in research, we’re able to be disruptive- to throw out new ideas and see if we can bring in innovation into the company. One focus we’ll have is “augmented reality.” What is important to me about the mobile space is that it takes us out into the physical world. It’s different from being locked up in a room staring at a monitor, be it a theater screen, TV screen or computer monitor.

With mobile, we’re allowed to be mobile–out in public places in the physical world. How can we have interesting and engaging entertainment using mobile? How can mobile entertainment be different from other entertainment we know? One thing we take advantage is the abilities of mobile devices such as GPS technologies. One idea might be a game where you play the game by going to different physical locations. You can connect that to social networking. We can use mobile devices’ cameras and GPS to, for example, take a picture of a building, have the computer can recognize the building and, in a game situation, it might be a clue.

I can also look at my display and see a virtual object that will give me a clue about where to go next. This is part of the mixed-reality technology where the computer is identifying some object in this space. Once the computer realizes it, it can bring up a fantasy object. The virtual objects or characters are clues that only appear when you’re at a certain location, or if you’re pointing your camera at a certain object. These are all ways to build up the augmented reality experience.

Another big area will be looking at new user interfaces, which is very exciting for me too – I’ve done a lot of work with human bodies, human motion, non-verbal communication. The idea of looking of this for more natural forms of interaction will also be an interesting area for us. When we’re out in the physical world, having a keyboard and mouse don’t make sense so exploring further the interfaces will make that particularly interesting.

MTV: Who are your Hollywood industry partners? How will you be working together?

RA: We haven’t announced Hollywood partners. I’ve been spending a chunk of my time talking to people. In the Los Angeles area, there are numerous interesting groups that look at technology tied in with media, often associated with media companies. We’re looking, in some cases, to collaborate with these media technology companies or even with a company generating media and interested in moving into the mobile space. We’re talking to some people and will talk to more who could be potential collaborators. Also, we’re looking at creative talent in the media industry. In my history, I’ve worked with talented artists who have always wanted to work with new technology, thinking about new ideas for mobile space. But we can’t announce anyone at this point.

Even in research, which is thought of very engineering/technology-focused. it’s crucial in these areas that you have strong creative design input all along the way from the beginning of your research. I’m comfortable with mixing these cultures; I’m a hybrid of these different cultures. This is why it’s important that we’re bringing in creative input from the beginning.

MTV: What would this look like?

RA: One thing I’d like to do is form a nice community of forward thinkers in Los Angeles. I’d like to organize a workshop or set of presentations for people to discuss new ideas. We’re in research, and part of our mandate is also to look farther out, where this will go, what will happen in five years in this space.

MTV: Will you work with the studios or bigger Hollywood institutions?

RA: I’m sure we’ll be connecting. I’m familiar with people at the studios. Even within the Hollywood environment, there are smaller compnies working with the Hollywood studios. I’d like to take advantge of that, to have some interaction with the larger studios but also a lot of work goes on in these smaller businesses. They’re often set up to look to the future. To be able to think and play with these new technologies, I’ll be looking at different-sized industries. Of course we’ll have the relationshp that’s started now with UCLA and USC.

MTV: What will be happening at the research center? What can we expect to see from it in the near future? Will this be open to the public or behind closed doors?

RA: I”m looking to have both public and behind-the-scenes. One nice quality of that in some of our research with the university, it’s intensively open to the public as well as research the university can share with other groups. And there will also be more proprietary work we’ll be doing that will specifically benefit Nokia that I won’t be able to reveal. We see a balance between those sides. By opening up some of the research areas, Nokia believes, it’ll help the whole field move forward. The feeling is that it’s good to keep innovation open to drive the future.

MTV: Where is the center? How many people are or will be staffing it?

RA: We’ve got a location now in Santa Monica where we plan to be for about a year. We’re also looking at a permanent location. Usually Nokia Research Labs are located close to a campus we’re involved with, but since we’re invovled with two campuses, we wanted to make sure we were central to them and a lot of media going on.

We should be at about 20 people, but we also have interns and visitors which will bring it up to probably 30 people . We’re getting staffed up, we’re actually hiring now. I’m looking for people who would come from both a user interface design, user experience and be knowledgeable about the technology and various areas of technology and development.

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How to Make Money from Mobile Content

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA—How can you miss with a panel on making money? This session, with Joe Laszlo, director of advertising at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), moderating a panel made up of mobile video executives, was packed. Each executive spoke about his or her company’s business model. Susan Cashen, vp of marketing at mywaves described the company as a handset agnostic mobile video service that delivers video around the world. “Because we’re free, we’re dependent on advertising,” she said. “We’ve also recently launched commerce with entertainment. When a consumer is immersed in an entertainment experience like watching a free Beyonce video, it’s a natural for them to be able to buy Beyonce content, both virtual and real goods.”

Transpera CEO Frank Barbieri described his company as “building the largest premium ad-supported mobile video network.” Networks in Motion is an applications and platform provider for the mobile phone, focused on search and navigation, with a subscription-based model. “Navigation and search is alive and well on the paid platform,” said CEO Doug Antone. Bytemobile CMO Adrian Hall said his company provides services to the carrier as an enabler to the end-user. “We basically enable the mobile Internet for the end-user,” he said. “And we see user-profile information which is useful for contextual and behavioral targeted advertising.”

On the advertising front, asked Laszlo, are advertisers are willing to pay a premium for mobile? Bytemobile’s Hall said the one thing that appears obvious is that the more targeted the ad, the more valuable. Barbieri said that mobile has far more focus of attention than the PC, where the screen could be displaying several windows and other distractions simultaneously. “For brand advertisers, that increased attention leads to better numbers,” he said. “I think the news is fairly good in these early days.” Cashen said about 6.5 million unique come to mywaves every month; they come twice a week and spend 20 minutes, watching 2 or 3 minute segments. “A 30-second pre-roll just won’t cut it,” she said. “In the short term, there are big opportunities to connect with consumers via direct marketing. There’s genius to leverage the video entertainment on the handset from the point of view of a brand. Taking what works on the web on mobile is taking baby steps,. You have this incredible storefront on the handset. Click-to-call, click-to-buy: there’s no better measurement. Leveraging the entertainment to create action is where we feel good.”

Cashen said that transcoding video for the consumer gives her company information on the consumers. “We have the ability to target by DMA, time of day, and type of handset,” she reported.

Everyone is trying to drive personalization and the consistency of brand across multiple devices, noted Hall and more personalized advertising based on user needs will create a dramatically stronger click-through rate. The mobile marketing campaign has to have ways to interact with the user, said Barbieri. “We work with our brand advertisers to brainstorm the mobile marketing campaign and how to target the audience.”

Antone observed that his company’s business model is different in that the user pays $10/month to navigate. “It’s no longer how you get from Point A to Point B,” he said. “We want someone to turn it on in the morning for real-time traffic information. Not just where’s the local movie theater but what’s playing and when. It’s all available on your client-server application on your handset. See us as a publisher that’s getting your content out to people. Our customers are the carriers, who sell to their customers. That’s our strategy. All of them have this $10 price point. At some point it’ll be $5 and beyond that it will be zero, a free application. The relevance of this is that when someone is mobile, they’re also motivated. When you’re in a browsing application and looking for a restaurant, you’re motivated to go. Targeted, pertinent advertising that can happen during that search is what we’re focused on.”

But to get the numbers, the only way the carriers can make that work is to draw in big percentages of their users. To get 50 to 60 percent, they’ll have to change the pricing model. “We’re betting on the idea that they’re going to try to do that and not roll over,” said Antone

Focusing on how the Networks in Motion product will one day be free, Antone talked about the challenge. “It depends how good we all are at creating the economics on the back end,” he said. “That listing of Italian restaurants in your neighborhood, for example. Would you find it offensive to get a manipulated search, where the restaurant that’s farther away pays to be listed first? When do consumers say, Forget it – you’re giving me something I don’t want. We have to do this in a way that there’s enough economics but the consumer still likes it.”

Finally, panelists spoke about the role of the carrier, between the extremes of a dumb pipe and a walled garden. “There is a smart pipe concept where there’s a tremendous amount of marketing and merchandising power that any one would be a fool to ignore, because they have a connection to the user with billing inserts, with product marketing on the deck,” said Barbieri. “There’s a relationship that can be used to promote content well. We have to move from a programming-type mentality of carriers to more of a merchandising, marketing and retail type of relationship. And that’s good for us and for the consumer as well. We have yet to get to the point where there are tremendous marketing and retailing competencies at some of the carriers, but that’ll change.

The carriers could move faster,” added Hall. “They are desperately trying to be smart pipes and it’s incumbent on us to work with them to become smarter. While they’re starting to recognize they’re sitting in a unique place and make smarter use of the user profiles they see. By doing that effectively, they’ll continue to be smart pipes or, in some cases become smarter pipes.”

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Millennials and Mobile: Generation Closes the Gap

Morley Winograd is the executive director of the Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. According to its website, CTM is a bridge between USC’s business school and the real world of the “networked digital industry.”

And he’s got an academic thing for the millennial generation–those born between 1982 and 2003–who comprise the largest generation in U.S. history (take that, baby boomers!). With their sheer numbers and tech-savvy, this generation will change-up the game as we know it, says Winograd.

And he’s got the proof. CTM does an annual study of consumers of mobile services, in 12 markets around the world. The same questions are asked, which enables the researchers to tease out cultural differences. For example: “The future of mobile entertainment does seem to be different based on where people live and the access they have to this content,” Winograd said. “In many of the Asian countries, most distinctively in Korea and Japan, the mobile device is looked of as a personal device, much like Americans see laptops as a source of information and entertainment.”

Americans tend to think of the mobile phone as a work device, said Winograd, which makes mobile entertainment is a bit of taboo. “Obviously among younger peoeple, because of their greater knowledge of technology and not being in the workforce, there is a greater acceptance of mobile entertainment–but a lack of money to pay for it,” he added.

But here’s where the Millennials come in: they’re the game-changers for mobile entertainment, says Winograd. “As the millennial generation matures and gains in earning power, you’ll have a natural growth of the market,” he said. Other factors that will help grow mobile entertainment, said Winograd, are the shift from a transaction and subscription model to one that’s advertising based and more free. And, an opening up of the networks for a variety of entertainment and applications so the market can tune itself more finely to the needs of users. Winograd is referring both to an an off-deck model or carriers that create a more open market. “That trend is unstoppable,” he said. “When you have that kind of third party opportunities, you’ll see greater interest in creating entertainment. The developers will have a greater chance to test ideas.”

Social networking plays a big role in the evolution of mobile entertainment, says Winograd. “I think the next step in the evolution of this field will be the integration of social networks and mobility,” he said. “Right now, a great deal of American’s access to social networking is done off of laptops. But the people most into social networks–the Millennial generation–are more into mobile devices for accessing broadband. That’s seen in the iPhone, which is more of an Internet access device then an actual phone for this generation.”

“The real breakthrough point comes when social networks are readily used and accessed through the phones,” he said. “Mobile Tribe and a few others have solved that problem but I haven’t seen widespread adoption by the carriers of the interaction into social networks. That’s not the first interface you find when you turn on your phone, although that is not to say it won’t be in the future. Even Yahoo has announced its attempt at integrating the different applications that might be integrated into a single interface.”

Apple’s iPhone is pushing competitors to offer the touchscreen, which WInograd thinks will quickly become commonplace. But, as we wait for the Millennials to grow up, mobile entertainment still faces some more prosaic hurdles. “There are other problems–pricing, customization, adoption for mobile environments–that mobile entertainment has to address, as well as access through social networking portals.”

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