MTV has introduced a mobile app in Europe that fits somewhere on between HBO Go and social-TV platforms, letting users watch the network's shows on demand and invite friends to chat.
But the motivation for the app, available for iPhones and Android phones, is unique to MTV in Europe. It's less about distributing content directly to consumers than about snagging mobile subscribers for Europe's MTV -branded wireless phone service.
The app, called "Under The Thumb," was designed by digital agency AKQA and described Tuesday at the mobile industry's biggest annual event, the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona. Without MTV -branded wireless service in the U.S., there are no immediate plans to bring the app stateside.
And if MTV did want to replicate the app for the U.S., it would have to cut deals with wary cable and satellite operators, who have in some cases prevented networks like HBO from distributing content directly to consumers via mobile devices. It took Time Warner and Cablevision, for example, more than a year to agree to let their subscribers use the HBO Go app.
In Europe, however, anyone in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland can download Under The Thumb for free and access a limited number of episodes for shows such as "16 and Pregnant" or "Jersey Shore." A second group can pay about $4 to stream more episodes each month. All episodes are free for the 2.5 million MTV Mobile subscribers.
The hope is that attraction of anytime content will translate into more mobile subscribers for MTV , said Michel Dupont, senior VP-mobile brand licensing for MTV International. Mobile-phone service was introduced in 2003, when MTV began working with a Belgian telecom operator, and has expanded to six European countries. Mobile operators handle the back-end and billing for the service, while MTV lends its name and marketing support in exchange for a licensing fee and revenue share.
The app streams episodes to mobile phones or pairs web browsers to play shows on a larger computer or tablet screen. Alongside the content, the app houses live chat for social viewing.