Busy signals at MIPCOM

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As MIPCOM wound down Thursday, digital discussion actually heated up: Content owners, telcos, technology vendors and subscription TV players hotly debated the financial models that would underpin a digital future that is estimated to be worth almost $200 billion by 2012.

Carriers and content owners on several panels admitted that they were becoming used to one another.

"Now carriers don't hate us. They just don't like us yet," said Douglas Richard, co-founder and chairman of content company Hotxt.

As to how to get along, there was no easy answer.

NBC Universal sales director Amelia Gammon said she was frustrated by efforts to wrest demographic information out of Vodafone. "We have no idea who our mobile demo is, and that's vital in informing our content decisions," she said.

Vodafone senior content development manager Neil Walker replied that it's not that the telco doesn't have the information, "it's just that you haven't found a way to make it worthwhile for us to give it to you."

Price was consistently cited as the major obstacle in mobile TV take-up, followed by quality, said Paul Goode, senior vp business development at measurement company M:Metrics. Solene Jaboulet, head of mobile TV at France's SFR, said there was no place in the mobile environment for a 100% free model. But, she added, there was no indication that ad revenue would cover expensive mobile infrastructure costs.

France Telecom senior executive vp strategic marketing George Penalver said that if users were going to pay for services, charges had to be clear and low, no more than a few euros a month.

Screentonic co-founder Marc-Henri Magdelenat agreed, saying that rates also had to be simple. "Consumers should not have to think about money each time they use it," he said.

MBlox executive chairman Andrew Bud suggested a sender-pays model to avoid consumers getting "fried by current costs no matter what they downloaded."

Bud pointed out that the only parties on the value chain able to swallow the risk involved were the carriers, "and they are rubbish at it. For carriers, content is a rounding error. They will never care about content," he said.

Walker admitted that the telco made things difficult, though he denied indifference to content.

"We need to streamline and to open up to entrepreneurs with interesting ideas," he conceded.
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