Mobile Content Industry Remains Desperate for Viewers

NATPE Speakers Bemoan Consumer Reticence to Embrace Video Phones

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LAS VEGAS ( -- The only thing holding up the explosion of the mobile phone content and advertising business continues to be the lack of interested viewers, panelists bemoaned at the second annual NATPE Mobile conference here.

Under 10%
Currently, 20% of all mobile users have video-enabled cellphones, but less than 10% of that sector has actually used that video access, said David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp. "What we have is a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is the low percent of people actually using it, but the good news is that we have all these people with new video opportunities. All we have to do is get them to start using it."

There are two things that can drive users to mobile content, Mr. Poltrack said: short-form creative content related to existing programming -- not just YouTube home movies -- and local content that will deliver a sense of immediacy, such as the news and weather that is already huge among the small mobile video community now.

Sense of urgency
What needs to happen for users to quickly expand from less than one-tenth to one-third of all mobile use is for a major content provider to take the initiative, just as Apple and Verizon paved the way for broadband video. "Someone needs to do the same thing for mobile video that 'American Idol' did for text messaging," said Raja Khanna, founder and chief operating officer of QuickPlay Media Inc. "Technology is no longer a hurdle. The reality is if consumers wanted to do this tomorrow, we would all figure out a way to [provide them with content.] We need to create that urgency."

While technology is no longer a barrier to consumers' entry into the mobile market, deciding on a solid business model is. Video-on-demand works best for news and weather, while a subscription model has paid off thus far for MySpace. The social networking giant has lured a significant portion of its users to its mobile platform for a $2.95 monthly membership, which, to the target audience, is like buying a ring tone, said John Smetzer, senior VP-general manager of mobile content at Fox Interactive Media. "Consumers are not paying for MySpace, they're paying for the mobility."

Decline of TV?
Since the mobile conference preceded the year's biggest syndicated TV conference by one day, it was important someone address what many worry is the diminishing role of TV in the imminent move to mobile. Leave it to Gary Carter, chief creative officer of U.K.-based FremantleMedia, to sum it up thusly in his dramatic closing keynote speech: "We should be careful that when we mourn the so-called death of television we are only mourning our own loss of power as a media elite. We're not living through the death of television for the simple reason that this is not about television.

"Technological development is a story which runs through history, and part of that story is the rise and rise and rise of what we call media," he said. "This will affect us in a very deep and very profound way."

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