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  • Writer's pictureSlashData Team

Reversing Mobile TV

One of the simplest and most brilliant ideas I ‘ve read in a while comes from Deloitte’s telecommunications predictions for 2007. This market trends paper argues that instead of trying to cram TV content designed for 32 inch TVs into 2 inch mobile phone screens, mobile operators should monetize by enabling their subscribers to upload videos they ‘ve snapped on their handset to the PC (i.e. the web) and their TV. The Deloitte paper references a Business 2.0 article with more insights and research on the subject of video moblogging. As Business 2.0 puts it:

“Sending a clip of Junior’s soccer match to Grandma, it seems, is much cooler than watching the latest ‘mobisode’ of ‘Desperate Housewives’ on a two-inch screen.”

This is essentially about bring not TV to the mobile, but mobile to the TV. Let’s call this Reverse Mobile TV (-MTV or minus MTV; kind of a nice wordplay, as it also alludes to turning around the power balance and being your own ‘MTV’ or popular channel). I don’t think the term moblogging (or Nokia’s term lifeblogging) does it enough justice anyway, as blogs are associated with a journal of sequential entries around one theme, whereas mobile TV making is about one-off broadcasting.

Startups are keen to monetize on this trend. Veeker allows to you upload videos via MMS and share them (although MMS is a fragile technology with impractical limits for file size – e.g. 300KB in the UK – and very expensive for spontaneous video sharing). Vpod.tv is another service that allows users to create their own TV channel (still in beta, with mobile capabilities unclear). Perhaps Shozu is the most promising attempt at video sharing, since it uses a handset application to upload videos to the web. Naturally, YouTube isn’t sitting around dwindling its thumbs and plans to allow mobile users to send clips to other YouTube members within a 2007 according to a Reuters report in late 2006. [updated] UK operator 3 has launched a service called SeeMe TV since October 2005 that let’s users produce and broadcast their own video clips, although the service does not extend to the web or the living room TV.

Getting the recipe right

It won’t be easy to reverse mobile TV, in other words to do for mobile phones what the Slingbox is doing for TV [the Slingbox comparison is only part of the solution and might confuse. Reverse mobile TV is about uploading your videos from your phone to your living room and your friends’ living room]. So, to implement it you need handset software, distribution channels, brand & communities, 3G pipes, flat data rates and a home entertainment play. Here’s why:

– handset software is needed to instantly upload videos to the internet cloud, over cheap reliable and standardised protocols like IP and unlike MMS. Handset software offers a much more compeling experience for sharing videos and silently uploading or downloading videos. Kind of what on-device portals like Yahoo! Go are to WAP portals. Shozu is a model application in this case and a lesson in the success of product vs platform business models in the mobile industry (Shozu is in fact a product created from the ‘ashes’ of the Cognima synchronisation platform).

– distribution channels are essential for getting the handset software bundled and made easily accessible from the handset menu. Distribution and bundling power comes with handset OEMs, mobile operators and media brands, in order of decreasing power (market-depending of course).

– brand & communities: Communities are an essential social framework of interaction. Think of YouTube’s video sharing community, eBay’s glue that allows buyers to find sellers and Amazon’s collaborative filtering. Today’s brands build communities and today’s communities build brands (Tomi Ahonen is thought-leader here).

– 3G channels: At last! -MTV could be a service that justifies (some) of the billions of investments made on building 3G mobile networks. Mobile video making is spontaneous and therefore uploading or sharing has to be instantaneous – you just can’t expect users to connect their handset via cable to their PCs and load up the right software. Or even wait for 10 mins while the video uploads over a GPRS connection.

– flat data rates: easily underestimated by industry insiders who rarely care about their mobile phone bills, flat data rates are essential for realising the -MTV paradigm. US, Japan and some European countries (see ‘3’ in the UK) offer flat data rates. If operators were smarter, they would launch pay-per-use tariffs for video uploading (e.g. uploading a video could cost as much as 2 SMSs), based on IP-based or APN-based charging, in association with the -MTV service provider.

– a home entertainment play will enable -MTV service providers to channel made-on-your-mobile videos to your living room, and cross-sell sharing, printing or other content services. This should be on the roadmap of companies like i-mate who launched their home-entertainment products at 3GSM last week.

Interestingly, the -MTV concept can not only drive data ARPU for the operators through video uploads but can also drive data downloads, as mobile video makers can broadcast themselves to other phones. Furthermore, as the Deloitte paper puts it “a growing body of amateur content, created on mobiles, is ideal for watching on mobiles”. A good charging model would be per-upload charges for mobile TV producers and flat-rate access for mobile TV consumers (a well-understood model for a two-sided market like -MTV). [updated] Operator 3’s SeeMe TV service charges mobile TV producers the price of an MMS for uploading videos, but rewards them with 1p for every ‘3’ customer that watches their clip – a revenue model variant that has spawned more than 30,000 clips from ‘3’ self-styled TV producers, rewarding popular clips with a total of over 100,000 as of March 2006.

The reverse mobile TV concept is unique service offering that can be delivered by mobile operators, ideally those who offer both mobile and fixed/home services and can partner with third party brands/communities to deliver multiple, end-to-end offerings.

Now, when can I get it on my phone please ?

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