NAB 2011

Content Is Key To Mobile DTV Success

The importance of tailoring mobile DTV business models to meet evolving consumer needs was one of the topics at Monday’s panel on the new medium and potential revenue stream for broadcasters. Others include lessons from more mature mobile markets overseas and updates from representatives of the Mobile Content Venture and the Mobile 500 Alliance.

The opportunities and obstacles facing mobile DTV received extra scrutiny in “Mobile: The Path To The Future,” the NAB Show’s most comprehensive discussion of the emerging medium. Moderator Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, guided his eclectic panel through the controversies confronting both consumers and prospective service providers.

Leading off the exchange was Saul Berman, lead partner, and global executive at IBM Global Business Services. Berman emphasized the need to tailor mobile DTV business models to meet evolving consumer needs. Unlike broadcasting’s decades-old courtship of a mass audience, “we find that the mobile consumers are not one group, they behave in different ways,” he said. “Some of them want to pay, some want advertiser-supported [free] content. We find that the over-45s adopt the technology even faster than younger groups, but they use it in different ways.”

Berman, author of Not For Free: Revenue Strategies for a New World, predicted mobile DTV “will grow astronomically,” but only if content is delivered the way audiences demand it.

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SNL Kagan Senior Analyst John Fletcher identified one key audience demand: the right program content. “Across the board, three things rise to the top specific to mobile: live sports, breaking news and children’s content. So if you want to build a business, give the viewers what they want.”

Ronen Jasek, founder and VP of marketing at Israel-based Siano Mobile Silicon, was asked what lessons could be learned from more mature mobile markets overseas. “There isn’t a uniform answer that fits globally,” said Jasek. “The most mature mobile markets are in Korea and Japan, but that does not mean that those broadcasters are necessarily making a lot of money.” Surprisingly, Jasek said, in China “the segment that pushes broadcast TV most aggressively is China Mobile.” Subscription fees for broadcast are common in the Far East, while premium fees for mobile in Europe have failed, Jasek noted.

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The panel featured representatives of the two leading coalitions for providing mobile DTV service in the U.S.: the Mobile Content Venture, which includes NBC, Fox, Cox, Ion and others, and the Mobile500 Alliance, a broad coalition of station groups and independent stations.

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The two groups are often portrayed in the trade press as rivals, but their representatives emphasized their commonality. “We all need a sustainable business model for the country,” said Randa Minkarah, SVP of revenue and business development for Fisher Communications, a guiding force in Mobile 500, whose members collectively boast 92% coverage of the United States. “At the end of the day, while we may be different alliances, we’re all going to the same place.”

“Our goals are exactly the same,” agreed Erik Moreno, SVP corporate development for the Fox Networks and co-general manager of the Mobile Content Venture, which by the end of the year will roll out service in 20 markets, covering 40% of the population. “Those markets will be able to get at least two channels — Fox and NBC,” says Moreno, adding that channels from Venture partners Telemundo and Ion will follow soon after.

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The panel acknowledged that mobile phone users, the largest, most lucrative segment of potential mobile viewers remain out of reach. No U.S. carrier has yet agreed to sell handsets with the necessary receiver chips. But that barrier may soon fall, Moreno said.

“Ultimately, those carriers are about to be overwhelmed by a tsunami of customer demand for streaming video,” Moreno said. “We’re starting to see it already in San Francisco and New York where even voice calls don’t always go through.”


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