Wireless Mobile TV Could Be a Must-See Experience

Nokia's multimedia expert Mark Selby said at a GSM Mobile World Congress panel that content providers need to view cell phones as another means to interact with audiences.

BARCELONA -- As the GSM Mobile World Congress drew to a close Wednesday evening, attendees addressed the specifics of mobile TV, a one-time buzz word with its own forum and pavilion at editions past that has been relegated to a sideshow at the wireless confab that runs through Thursday.

Panelists agreed that the wireless TV experience was primed to move beyond a last-resort scenario to become must-see TV if it navigated the present climate properly -- largely capitalizing on engaging viewers and utilizing social networking.

Nokia's multimedia expert Mark Selby encouraged content providers from the media to think outside the constraints of seeing the cell phone as another distribution channel and see it more as a means to interact with audiences.

"They need to look beyond licensing framework and see it as way to enable people to do what they want to do," Selby said, referring to tweeting while watching big screen, high-definition screens.

MTV's vp of digital media for Southern Europe Alejandro Romero said the key is creating programming -- like Nickelodeon's iCarly that references a website in the show and creates an imbedded interaction with viewers. According to Romero, the iCarly website is the top site for the network and demonstrates the strategic value for a company if
it can deliver the right brand experience with the correct digital references.

While MTV boasts some 900 applications, with some 30% launched in the past 12 months and some 60 mobile TV channels, Romero pointed out that the industry is still figuring out the economics of the situation and how to best employ models.

"We do know we can monetize it because we've seen users are willing to pay for content across multiple platforms, which opens up other business models," Romero said.

BBC digital media director Ralph Rivera agreed that the key was to complement TV programming with the small screen, saying the British public broadcaster clocked 162 million streams of olive video on its iPlayer application on Jan. 11 thanks to the political turmoil in Egypt.

Rivera pointed out that the tablet format is more conducive to mobile TV and said their research showed that usage on its iPad application -- launched four days ago -- peaks at 10:30 p.m., which he pointed out extended prime time and showed it as a clear choice for bedroom usage.

Rivera said the BBC was expecting to create programming that combined "lean back experience" with "lean-forward experience" with different devices complementing each other.

"Mobile TV on a cell phone may be a last choice, but on a tablet, it could be the first choice in the bedroom, which means must-see TV," Rivera said, highlighting the broadcaster had set a self-imposed deadline of ironing out any kinks by the 2012 London Olympics, which promises 50 million wireless users.

When asked why only 50 million wireless users, Rivera circled back to rethinking licensing.

"Global rights haven't caught up with the global consumer. The BBC holds all rights, but only in the U.K.," he said.

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