Tag Archives: Verizon

Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls” Delayed

A few weeks ago, ON Networks announced that they were launching Smart Girls at the Party, a new digital series actor/comedian Amy Poehler created with friends Meredith Walker, former senior producer for Nickelodeon’s Nick News, head of talent for Saturday Night Live, and Amy Miles, recording artist and performer, host of PBS children’s show LOMAX: Hound of Music. The original release date–sometime in October–has now been pushed forward to mid-November due to the fact that Poehler is about to give birth.

Serendipitous for a show that celebrates young girls, with the aim of helping them find confidence in their aspirations and talents. In each episode, Amy interviews a girl with a unique talent, community interest or point of view. In their interviews, girls offer witty truths and demonstrate ways that girls can make a difference in the world.

MobilizedTV sat down with Meredith Walker and On Networks’ co-founder/chief content officer Jen Grogono to talk about the series.

[All episodes will be available to watch or download exclusively through ON’s AllScreen syndication partners, including iTunes, Adobe Media Player, and a set of targeted Website, digital TV and mobile partners.]

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you and Amy come up with the idea for this series?

MEREDITH: Amy and I are best friends and one of the things we bond about is talking about our younger years. We found with our friends how hard those ages are between 9 and 13, when you’re starting to morph to fit in or not. Those are such important years to feel heard and sometimes that’s not around. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to offer up anything we learned from that and help anyone we could? Wait, that could be a show! We read studies about that age group, and we talked about what helped us the most, which was when older girls cared about what we thought and asked us questions about ourselves. We knew then that’s what we wanted to do: to converse without talking down. to have a real conversations with real girls.

MOBILIZEDTV: What’s the format of the show?

MEREDITH: The show is various lengths between 5 and 10 minutes. It’s like a Charlie Rose show but not as serious. We talk to interesting girls so there’s a level of fun. I’m the producer so I’m off-camera, but occasionally I’m on.

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you “cast” this show?

MEREDITH: Once we put the word out, people came to us. The first season was shot in New York, and we’re producing this in various cities.

MOBILIZEDTV: Jen, what’s the distribution model?

JEN: We intend to put the show across the three-screen network, the AllScreen syndication network on TV, computer and mobile. The reason is quite simply that there is significant audience on new digital platforms, particularly with the younger audiences and even the parents.

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you produce for three very different screens?

JEN: We shoot it all in HD. That’s important. You want to make sure that it looks just as good on a 52-inch plasma as a 3-inch cell phone. We also made sure the pacing and tempo is reflective of the audience’s viewing habits. You want that common denominator: the person who doesn’t have a whole lot of time to sit and watch but will make time for what they’re passionate about. If you have the right pace and tempo and the program is compelling, they’ll be interested in a 2-minute piece up to 30-minutes or longer. We probably will create longer versions of this. Meredith has great ideas for season 2 to experiment with the platform, genre and format.

MOBILIZEDTV: Who are your mobile partners for the series?

JEN: We’re talking to a number of mobile providers now. Apple iPhones obviously, BuzzWire, Verizon, AT&T, and iTunes are our biggest. We have a number of other mobile companies we’re in discussion with, both on deck and off deck.

MEREDITH- I think mobile is very important. It’s so new and I feel that’s where our audience will be watching it. It’s the device they have with them all the time. -They’re always texting. So that’s where they’re going to be. That and the PC of course.

With regard to TV, right now the series is on Apple TV, Tivo, Time Warner (the San Antonio market for VOD), Verizon FiOS, and AT&T U-Verse. We’re still in a number of discussions.

MOBILIZEDTV: What’s the business model? How will you monetize it?

JEN: It is a sponsorship model. We’re talking to select brands, not dissimilar from 1950s TV. We’re holding out for the right sponsor. It’s unlikely you’ll see a diet pill.

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Anytime/Anywhere Content Lab

USC’s Entertainment Technology Center has a history of being in the right place at the right time. Created as a consortium funded by the major content, technology, CE and service companies, ETC’s stated goal is “to understand next-gen consumers and explore new opportunities for reaching them with digital content. ” ETC was the main player, for many years, in the efforts to arrive at a standard for Digital Cinema. With that task behind the organization, ETC and its CEO/Executive Director David Wertheimer have now turned their attentions to the Anytime/Anywhere Content Laboratory (AACL).

Anywhere/Anytime Content Lab

Anywhere/Anytime Content Lab

MobilizedTV had an opportunity to speak with Wertheimer about the lab and how it might help vendors to improve the state-of-the-art of mobile TV/video. Here’s what he had to say:

“We’ve been working on the lab for several months now but it’s just now coming to fruition as a place where we can gather people and have a critical mass of state-of-the art devices to show how content moves across platforms through the home and to consumers on the go. it gives us a real opportunity to provide context for the industry-shaping discussions we have at the ETC between content providers, systems operators, technology and consumer electronics companies.

The technology is changing every day. And so we and, importantly, our member companies came to the conclusion that it would be great to have a place where we could not only know that we could follow the state-of-the-art and see content as consumers would see it, perhaps before they’d see it in many cases, but use it as a opportunity to talk about where things are headed and how we can work together to make sure that consumer experiences are as good as we want them to be.

The AACL builds on the model and the success of the Digial Cinema Lab where people from multiple industries were able to come together and hash out how Digital Cinema could work and come into existence.

For the AACL, our executive sponsors include major content partners from Disney, Warner Bros. to Fox, Sony Pictures and Lucasfilm to companies like Sharp Electronics, Volkswagen of America, Cisco, and Alcatel- Lucent. Project sponsors include Dolby, SanDisk and LG Electronics. In addition to that, we have lots of companies that have donated hardware and software to the lab, to be represented there.

One of the things we’re doing in August and into September is building out the 3D home part of the lab. We’re largely looking at the technologies that either encode, decode or display 3D video. That said, we have a working group looking at 3D end-to-end.

We’re just beginning to build out the relationships and technologies from the mobile side. Alcatel-Lucent was the first board member to join us and they and we are interested in bringing in companies from the wireless service provider space to be a part of the discussions we have. We’ve talked quite a bit about the state of the market, what’s working and what’s not and what we can do better in terms of making things better.

With regard to mobile, we’re looking at questions such as, Are there opportunities for us to build towards more common formats, since there are hundreds of video formats required to service the various handsets? How can we help drive a movement towards sanity? I think this is an opportune time to be doing this. People have seen some excitement about mobile but cost is going to be important in the mobile space. So doing things efficiently both for the service provider and content provider are going to be really important. People weren’t focused on that when they were just excited to get content on the mobile device. How, now, will we encourage the right things to happen so we don’t have to produce 200 versions of a movie or TV show, but a much smaller number and make sure they look good?

In the lab, we have lots of portable devices, from Apple iPods to iPhones to LG Voyagers, which Verizon is an affiliate sponsor of. I think a lot of these guys are headed in the right direction. This game is far from over. If you look at where the iPhone is, it’s got a lot of people excited about video on portable devices which is good. But the field is still wide open. I think that if people are smart about creating devices that are easy to use and really good at providing a quality user experience, I think there is still a lot of room for people to make inroads.

In the lab, our goal is to see how consumers are consuming on the leading edge and how that changes how major content producers and those who have to build the big systems to enable it are going to do what they do. Trending is important to us, but we don’t need lots and lots of people sitting around the table with us to fully understand that. The reason we bring smaller companies together with our larger partners is it is important to have that dialogue. The next big distribution company might be a name we don’t know today. We need to continue to be out there looking for how things are changing technologically and from a consumer behavior point of view, and what that means for content and consumer electronics.

Currently, our lab is not open to the public. The use of our lab is one of the sponsor benefits of being part of our organization. We are exploring right now how to involve smaller companies. Traditionally, ETC has been a non-profit organization funded by very large industry-shaping organizations, because it’s been frankly the power of those organizations that have been able to move the needle. That said, in today’s world, where smaller companies can have more and more influence, we are constantly and are currently evaluating how we open it up for those kinds of companies to be involved.

We do several events such as Tech First Look where we invite start-up companies to make a presentations and have a dialogue with the member companies and other industry analysts and so forth. We do those events a couple of times a year. So we have ways to get those companies in front of our member organizations, but we don’t currently have a way for them to join.

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Q&A with Kim Senn, VP Product, Airborne Entertainment

What is Airborne best known for in the mobile space?

Airborne was one of the early entrants into the mobile marketplace. The company has partnered with prominent brands to bring those brands to mobile. In the early days, that included Disney and HBO. Today our portfolio includes Maxim, Family Guy, NHL Mobile, and Speed Channel. We work with them to be able to take their brands and properties and bring them into the mobile space. It’s important that we develop the right product mix for the brand we’re working with.

We span all mobile product lines. We do graphics and ringtones and ringback tones, WAP applications, mobile games and applications, SMS and video and we’re really expanding to include some of the emerging product lines as well.

What is your most successful product?

The biggest revenue generator over the last couple of years has been wallpaper. Wallpapers are still huge.

What do you see as the up and coming revenue earner?

We’re starting to move into opportunities in WAP advertising. We do some WAP sites for our brand, for Maxim and the NHL. I think there’ll be a lot of growth potential for WAP advertising. Another growth area for us is mobile promotions. We’re seeing some great success in that area. We just did one with Taco Bell in Canada.

What is your involvement in producing original video content for the mobile platform?

We were really fortunate to work with Verizon and Sprint early on for video. Currently we are managing the programming of three channels for Verizon V Cast: the Maxim channel MaximToGo, the NHL channel and a comedy channel just rebranded Vidiotic.

What does it mean to manage a channel?

We source out the content. We handle working with partners on formatting the content or we do some formatting ourselves. Making sure the content is refreshed and available for consumers. So we handle it from start to finish.

We also do some originally produced content as well, for the Vidiotic channel. Our approach to that channel has been to be a little more edgy and underground in the kind of content we’re programming. Because we know we’re going up against the Comedy Centrals, which have access to marquee names and bigger budgets. Our approach is a little bit more on the viral side, closer in spirit to what we might see on YouTube or Heavy. It’s more the indy approach to comedy programming.

What about the 3rd party content?

We find content that is already produced but doesn’t have a distribution avenue for mobile for North America. We have companies that approach us as well as we’re out there scouring the web.

We’re looking for content across the board. We have two categories: Too Stupid for TV and Eyeball Glue. Those are short-form sketch comedy. But we’re branching out into original productions, where we act as Executive Producers and help fund the project. Two in particular are Bitchin’ Kitchen, which is a very edgy comedy cooking show. The clips are averaging between one and two minutes. Then Mobile Wingman is another property we’re excited about. It’s a made-for-mobile content project with a guy who gives dating and life advice to clueless people. Those are also one to two minutes. We generally do short easily digestible clips.

Our approach has been to grab somebody quick and pull them in. Two of the acronyms we use to describe our video strategy are WTF (what the fuck) and LOL (laugh out loud). That’s the kind of content we’re looking for. Things a little more offbeat, a little edgier than you’d find in traditional comedy programming, things that push the boundaries.

What kinds of production companies do you work with? Are they traditional production companies?

Most of the companies do web programming. Not TV production companies; it’s difficult to take existing broadcast content and use it for the mobile screen. It really needs to be mobile specific. It’s difficult to repurpose existing content.

Why?

When you take something designed for a much bigger screen and then reduce it down to mobile’s 200×200 resolution, you won’t see anything. You’ll see tiny figures. Also, the viewer’s attention span is much shorter. You need to get someone’s attention quickly and get in and get out.

Do you think video is going to be a bigger part of your mix going forward?

We are definitely broadening the programming. We’re trying to bring more to the table for the carriers so that the content is really designed for mobile, fresh and innovative and high quality. Anyone can do a quick home video clip with their phone and upload it to YouTube. We want to get the same feel but with quality content.

For Maxim we’re working closely with the brand. They’re providing a lot of content and we’re doing a little bit of comedy content in with the mix.

Bitchen Kitchen isn’t launched yet. We’re wrapping up the content with the other producers and talent and we’re acting as executive producers. They’ve sourced the talent. The person starring in it has done a lot of the writing. It’s being produced in Montreal.

KSenn@airborne-e.com

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Mobile Monday – End of 2007 Musing & Predictions

Mobile Monday is the grassroots powerhouse organization for those engaged in all things mobile. The very robust Los Angeles chapter, which is run by Sarah Miller of Axis Marketing & PR, asked Interactive TV Alliance CEO Allison Dollar to help put together, and to moderate a panel, reflecting back on 2007 and looking forward to 2008. Along with a group of venture capitalists and analysts, I was on that panel. I didn’t have a tape recorder, so alas, you won’t get the wisdom of the other panelists, but here’s what I had to say. Please drop me a note to let me know what your predictions are for 2008.

Coal in the Christmas Stocking – Allison asked us all which companies, features or applications deserved coal in their stockings and why.
My choices were all the carriers for doing such a miserable job of educating the public about their mobile TV offerings. You can go to a website, enter a store and still have absolutely no idea that mobile TV even exists. Apple, which exists because of its insanely loyal customers, did a bad thing when they dissed their own customer base. I know I’d think twice about my loyalty if I’d stood in line in the cold for days to be the first to buy an iPhone, only to see the price lowered a few weeks later. What’s up with that, Apple? And while I’m at it, what’s with the telcos agreeing to participate in warrantless wire-tapping? Shame on them.

What were the most useful “gifts” the mobile industry received in 2007? I’m enthused about the big breakthrough in broadband video this year. Not long ago, the idea that people would actually watch video, much less TV programs, on their PC seemed ludicrous. This year, that’s all been proven wrong. That’s good news for the mobile industry, which is following the same path to wide adoption. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz’s “quarterlife” was another gift: although it’s a broadband show, not a mobile show, these two savvy Hollywood producers showed everyone else how it’s done. High production values; guild signatories; stories that attract an audience. Listen up, mobile producers.

What were the most popular “gifts” mobile consumers received in 2007? Yes, I chastized Apple, but I also need to give them kudos. Although I was a hater, I have to say that the Apple iPhone was truly a great gift. Everyone I know who has one, loves it madly. Doesn’t that say it all? Apple has really set the bar for the competition. I think a series like “Afterworld” was another gift: made simply so it can easily conform to any handset’s requirements, this series is pretty much the “digital crack” that its creator wanted it to be. Aside from that, I would say that 2007 was a pretty sad year from the point of view of the consumer, who really got the same not-so-great level of service combined with high prices and a chaotic landscape for content offerings.

What were the newsworthy events of the year? The demise of the Disney MVNO was big news. If Disney—one of the most powerful brands in the world—can’t make an MVNO work, who can? Combined with the demise of Amp’d and ESPN’s MVNO, the Disney disconnect leaves MVNOs in a perilous position at the end of 2007. Google’s Android platform is also exciting. Although now it’s merely an SDK (software developers kit), that’s still exciting to me. SDKs bring brilliant Bulgarian math grad students out of the woodwork. This Open Handset Alliance move is a step in the right direction. Also of interest: I read that recent research shows that college students’ number-one Web destination is….social networks. Not porn, which usually drives any new media platform. Social networking it is, then. Nota bene, mobile content producers.

What’s on your wishlist for 2008? I’d like to see the carriers market their mobile content more aggressively. I’d like to see more handsets competitive with the iPhone. I’d like to see the 700 MHz spectrum auction stir things up in a way that speeds the dismantling of the walled garden. And I’d like to see more definitive research on mobile audiences, which results in more impetus for advertising-sponsored content.

Share your predictions for 2008. It’s going to be an interesting year. Verizon’s bid to create an “open” network is just one salvo in the evolution of the struggle between the closed and open networks. The 700 MHz auction will liven things up, but the carriers will work hard to maintain their position. The consumer will continue to be lost in the shuffle…for now. Although I don’t believe that at least the first half of 2008 will show any mobile TV breakthroughs, by the last quarter of 2008, we may be able to reap some of the benefits of a rocky start to the year.


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New on the Scene: Vringo

WHO: Vringo
WHAT: A way to share video clips between friends.
WHEN: Founded the beginning of 2006
WHERE: A U.S. company with offices in New York and Israel
HOW: Go to the Vringo website and sign up. They’ll ask for your mobile number, and then send you a clickable link. The buddy list, which requires a nickname and phone number, can be done on the website or mobile phone.
WHY: Why send the ringtone when you can send the music video?

Founded with two rounds of VC money and based on 26 patents pending, Vringo is based on the idea that friends send friends video. More specifically, “buddies” on Vringo can send ring-forward and ring-back clips. “Mobile phones have been traditionally designed so that a phone shuts down all applications when a call comes in,” notes Andrew Perlman. ” With Vringo, you see a clip that your friend has chosen for you.” That clip could be user-generated or licensed content; so far Vringo has over 1,000 clips-to-license from Discovery Channel, Universal Music Group, GoTV, Classic Media and others.

For user-generated clips, the user can record a Vringo from the Vringo application (“Record Vringo”), which automatically turns on the phone’s camera. A finished clip can be immediately uploaded and shared with “buddies” in the Vringo community.

Why haven’t video ringtones taken off in the past? “If you think about audio versus video, people have a tolerance of hearing audio over and over again but video gets tired more quickly,” says Perlman. “You can’t shuffle and see something fresh. Think about merging that idea with the best “recommender” on the planet — your friend. With Vringo, you’re shuffling based on the video your friend sent. It really becomes a community that’s socializing around video ringtones.”

Social networking is key to the Vringo business model. “We’re working our way more deeply into social networks,” says Perlman. “We started specing out our Facebook application, but we’ve tapped into other communities. We think a lot of the content will be user-generated, so we’ve partnered with communities such as Meez, an avatar site with 4 million registered users, that you can import to Vringo. People are already using avatars as a digital signature. We’re focusing on the way on mobile it would be natural to share an avatar.”

The Meez avatars move—they can wave and run—and the user personalizes them, choosing skin tone, features, attire. “It’s a phenomenon and a little bit addictive,” Perlman says. “The avatar is a discrete experience, but it’s a platform fo sharing.”

In the early beta stage, Vringo has “multiple thousands” of users,” says Perlman. What tweaks are they still working on? “We’re fixing it to make it easier,” he says. “The key is really simplicity and ease of use. The thing we really really think we’re good at but want to further improve is to make it as viral as possible. We’re focusing on elements of community and inviting friends based on the contact list on your phone.”

Right now, Vringo is free to users. For the future, Perlman sees the financial model as two-fold: the a la carte purchase of clips in the short-term, with “huge promise” in the ad-funded model down the road. That could be a range from a one- or two-second pre-roll, banner ads or even branded content. “Like BMW films, I think about a 20-second piece of branded content that’s being shared between friends,” says Perlman. “If we get critical mass, that’ll become a real part of our business. We’ve been approached by ad agencies, but this is a long-lead thing.

Vringo is expected to launch formally with at least one mobile carrier before the end of 2008 Q1.

Currently, any Internet-enabled phone can take advantage of Vringo, accessing it via the mobile browser where they cnan view, download and send Vringo videotones. But the full-featured Vringo–which includes installed client, automatic video ringtones and real-time Vringo synchronization, is only available on the following phones.

NOKIA
N70 N73 N76 N80
N81 (8GB) N91 N93 N93i
N95 E60 E61 E61i
E65 6120 Classic 6290
SONY ERICSSON
K610i K800i W850i W880i
MOTOROLA
Moto Q (8)
HTC
S620 (DASH)

Coming soon:
Motorola V3xx, V6, K3
Samsung Blackjack
Nokia N75, E62, 6110, 5500, 5700
What kind of network do I need to use Vringo?
You need a network that offers data (most of them do these days) and with reasonably good coverage. Vringo works best in networks with advanced data services and broadband-like service. This kind of service is frequently called 3G.

Right now, to be able to experience VringBack you must be on a GSM network (like Cingular or T-Mobile). We’re working on ways to extend this service to all types of networks.

Users on non-GSM networks like Verizon or Sprint can still use Vringo. VringForward will work fine, but you won’t get VringBack.

What kind of plan do I need to use Vringo?
You need to be on a data plan. Vringos are uploaded and downloaded with a data connection. The better your connection and your plan, the better the whole thing works.

Where can I get Vringo?
For the length of the private Beta period, you can get Vringo from the Vringo.com website. As we expand the Beta you’ll be able to get it from a variety of software vendors. Don’t worry, it’ll still be free.

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