News

Mobile Video: Sky Hype

4/05/2008 2:00 AM Eastern

A flood of new video content — from Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana series to full-length movies like Ghostbusters — is making its way to mobile phones.

Amid the sea of announcements last week, however, was a fresh indicator that the business of delivering TV content to wireless devices is still in its infancy: A survey found that 47% of consumers 18 to 34 years old do not even know whether their carrier offers any video services.

The online survey of 500 U.S.-based mobile-phone customers was sponsored by QuickPlay Media, a provider of content-management services for mobile TV and video.

The survey, released at the CTIA Wireless 2008 show in Las Vegas, also found that 42% of those who have accessed mobile video services “just tried it once” in a given month. Only 13% said they “use it almost every day,” with 27% citing usage of one to three times per month. The remaining 18% said they use such services more than once per week but less than every day.

“Carriers have a further opportunity to drive service adoption by increasing marketing promotion of mobile media services,” QuickPlay CEO Wayne Purboo said.

Industry executives acknowledge that it’s still early, but they liken mobile TV to the adoption of camera phones. A few years ago many consumers expressed no interest in taking pictures with their mobile handsets, but now the feature is ubiquitous (see “Picture Imperfect,” page 26).

For now, wireless providers continue to stock their video shelves.

Verizon Wireless was the leader last week in terms of sheer volume of announcements. The No. 2 wireless carrier, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, packed more video into its on-demand V Cast Video service, announcing expanded or new distribution deals with more than a dozen partners including MTV Networks, CNN, ABC, NBC, Sí TV and Condé Nast Publications.

It will offer two new channels from MTVN: GameTrailers and The N. The GameTrailers channel offers video-game trailers, reviews, interviews and event news, while The N channel features clips from teen shows, including Degrassi, South of Nowhere and Instant Star.

“We create mobile video for nearly every demographic — from kids to adults and everywhere in between — and our fans can now access nearly all of that content on Verizon Wireless handsets,” MTVN executive vice president of digital distribution and business development Greg Clayman said, in a statement.

Other MTVN channels already carried on V Cast Video include MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, CMT, Logo, Spike TV, MTV Tr3s and Atom Films.

In 2007, MTVN streamed more than 26 million on-demand videos to V Cast Video customers. Over all, the Viacom unit delivered more than 57 million mobile videos between February 2007 and February 2008, representing 94% growth over the year prior.

Verizon Wireless also announced the Election 08 channel, featuring news, commentary and satirical bits about the U.S. presidential campaign from CNN, ABC News Now, Comedy Central, MTV, NBC News, the Onion News Network, PBS, Sí TV and others.

The carrier struck a deal with News Over Wireless, a company delivers local content formatted for mobile phones from more than 80 TV stations. News Over Wireless will provide the My Local TV News video channel on V Cast with more than 1,000 local news and sports video clips from across the country.

V Cast Video also will feature content from TMZ TV, a celebrity and gossip video program from TMZ.com, a joint venture of Warner Bros. Television Group and AOL; FunnyorDie.com, a site dedicated to short-form comedy best known for “The Landlord” sketch featuring Will Ferrell; and Saavn, a distributor of South Asian content, which is providing the Bollywood Music by Saavn video channel.

V Cast costs $3.00 for 24-hour use or $15 per month, which also includes access to Verizon Wireless’ ESPN MVP service. In addition, Verizon Wireless sells V Cast Mobile TV, a group of eight channels offered through Qualcomm’s MediaFLO USA, for $13 to $25 extra per month.

Another key mobile TV player, MobiTV, added two cable channels: Disney-ABC Television Group’s Disney Channel and News Corp.’s Fox Business Network.

The Disney Channel on MobiTV includes live linear programming featuring full-length episodes of series Hannah Montana and Phineas and Ferb, original films and shows from the Playhouse Disney preschool block, including Bunnytown, Handy Manny and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

According to MobiTV, 43% of its subscribers who are parents use the service to entertain their kids in the car. “The addition of Disney Channel will provide even more meaningful content and wholesome viewing experiences for kids and families traveling in the car and beyond,” MobiTV CEO Charlie Nooney said.

MobiTV’s service is available for about $10 per month through its carrier partners, which include Sprint Nextel, AT&T and Alltel Wireless.

Other mobile video news last week:

Sony Pictures Television will launch PIX, a mobile movie channel with titles including Bugsy, Ghostbusters and Philadelphia, on AT&T’s new mobile TV service slated to roll out in May.

PIX will feature movies from Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star, ScreenGems and Sony Pictures Classics. Titles will be available for up to one month, with films added weekly. Sony did not disclose pricing details for the PIX service; AT&T hasn’t announced pricing for its mobile TV service either, which will include PIX, the MediaFLO USA’s eight channels and one additional exclusive channel provided by CNN.

Gemstar-TV Guide International launched a new mobile Web site, M.TVGuide.com, which provides 14-day local TV listings, including episode descriptions, plus entertainment news, TV recommendations and other information.

Bell Mobility, the wireless division of Bell Canada, announced a partnership with HBO to deliver the premium network’s original programming to customer phones for $10 (Canadian) per month.

Launched last week, the on-demand service provides full episodes of HBO original series, including The Sopranos, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Tell Me You Love Me and Sex and the City, as well as promotional previews, trailers, bonus footage and stand-up comedy.

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