@ Digital Hollywood: Finding a place for mobile TV in a data-loving world

**As published in RCR Wireless News** SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Kicking off a panel dedicated to video on smartphones at Digital Hollywood yesterday, The Nielsen Co.’s VP of mobile media presented some astonishing statistics that frame the intense battle that’s getting underway between Google Inc.’s Android operating system and Apple Inc.’s iPhone. Citing fresh data that the research firm put together just in time for the event, Jerry Rocha said smartphones running on the Android operating systems are beating or tying with the iPhone in many use categories. Time will tell whether Android users will maintain their high use data services, but if the trend stays on track Apple might be outdone at its own game very soon. Android users are outperforming iPhone users on location-based services and mobile video while both user groups are in a dead heat for mobile Internet use at an overall rate of 88%, Rocha said. Data services on the Android operating system has taken off in just the past couple quarters and is currently running at a year-over-year growth rate of 352%, he added.

After Rocha presented the data, the obligatory battle of the sizzle reels got underway on stage with FLO TV, MobiTV, Fun Little Movies, Internet Video Archive, Saffron Digital and “Africa Diary” each getting a turn. While not the flashiest by any stretch, the clip of L.M. Kit Carson’s documentary series, “Africa Diary,” left the most lasting impression. The filmmaker/journalist who wrote “Paris, Texas” and produced “Bottle Rocket,” shot the series exclusively on Nokia cellphones. The Sundance Channel will begin airing the series this summer. With smartphones pegged to command the majority of the market sometime in 2011, according to Nielsen’s data, there was no doubt among the panelists that more series like Carson’s will be able to bridge the gap from mobile to traditional mass media outlets like cable TV. Indeed, Carson is planning a mobile storytelling workshop in Spain for the first two weeks of June. He believes it’s the first workshop of its kind and that makes sense coming from such a creative mind who later told the audience, “this is not a telephone, you use it to tell a story.” Maneuvering back to the rest of the panel, Fun Little Movies’ president and chief creative officer Frank Chindamo asked the panelists what surprises they’ve run into along the way and why the adoption of mobile TV and video services is still lagging behind general expectations. Not surprisingly, Rocha took on the tough question of why and said consumers routinely cite two issues that hold up mobile TV adoption: battery life and sound. Since both of those problems won’t be fully resolved anytime soon, mobile TV providers will have to get as creative as possible. And moreover, with the advertising component still in its infancy, Rocha said he’s convinced that the world of mobile TV and video is only going to get more complicated. Cynthia Ray, director of programming at FLO TV Inc., said the Qualcomm subsidiary isn’t as worried about competitors and differing business models as it is about driving the category in general and finding a way to reach mass scale. FLO TV has put most of its focus and content investment into broadly popular content because it believes mobile TV won’t be exclusive to the early-adopter gadget geeks, but rather TV lovers across the board. “I think all of us are trying to learn what’s best on mobile TV,” she said. Building awareness around events that people are already interested in makes the most sense and it appears FLO TV is readying for a major campaign to help prove that approach. Without announcing FLO TV’s plans for covering the global event, Ray said she believes the World Cup is going to be “the big moment for mobile TV.” And it sure would fall in line with FLO TV’s major push around live sporting events. With the most watched event in the world scheduled during “funky hours, day and night,” the World Cup will make for an interesting test, she said. Jacquie Robison, senior director of marketing at MobiTV, concurred, adding that sports and live events have been huge categories for the early pioneer in mobile TV. For its part, MobiTV manages the exclusive NFL content for Verizon Wireless and just recently wrapped up a major campaign with CBS on a March Madness app, she said. Summing up the generally held sentiment that all ships rise with the tide, Chindamo concluded the panel with an astute observation: “collaboration is the new competition.” He added, “All of the companies here are interdependent on each other in one way or another, which is a great metaphor for planet earth, right?” We’ll see how many World Cups pass us by before mobile TV reaches the mass scale these companies will eventually need to survive.