Making live music mobile

RCR Wireless News
Concerts are nothing new on mobile. Sprint Nextel Corp. aired the first concert on mobile in 2005 with a huge marketing push behind a Bon Jovi concert that year. Others have followed since then.

Verizon Wireless gets the nod for being the first carrier to broadcast a concert live over its network, which it did last month during an intimate Madonna concert in New York City.

The category got another boost last month when AT&T Mobility launched an exclusive concerts channel on its Mobile TV with FLO service on MediaFLO USA Inc.’s network.

Each of the nation’s top three carriers have experimented with varying approaches to artist performances. While there are many similarities, there are also distinct differences.

Sprint, the early pioneer

Sprint Nextel has done a mix of live and taped recordings that it makes available on-demand for later viewing, said Aaron Radelet, a company spokesman.

The carrier determines what artists’ customers are most interested in and will either cut a major sponsorship with them, put on an intimate, private show with the artist or tag along for a select performance, Radelet said.

Last year, the carrier was the only U.S. mobile operator to provide footage from the Live Earth concerts around the world, he said. Much of its content remains available and is indexed by song title and artist name.

On the Sprint Exclusive Entertainment channel, the carrier plays an average of 200 clips a week, Radelet said.

The carrier has also done exclusive on-demand concerts with Busta Rhymes, Juanes, Wolfmother and 50 cent.

Verizon’s deep catalog

Ed Ruth, VZW director of music, said the carrier has been doing taped live performances for two to three years now through various artist and venue partnerships, including Live Nation.

Since the company put on an intimate Madonna concert at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom last month, it’s top two clips on its Vcast service have been from that show, Ruth said.

“The majority of what we do is going to be on-demand,” he said. “There are going to be strategic partnerships that we absolutely want to do live ventures with.”

He called the MediaFLO service an option that the company is looking into for live performances, which fit in very will with the format. He hinted at some major announcements the carrier plans to unveil soon.

“It’s part of a larger strategy for us,” Ruth said. “This is an opportunity for us to showcase a concert in general,” he said. “There are many different valuable traits to it.”

And because of that, the carrier packages performance videos with behind-the-scenes footage and other content that will give fans a look at another layer of the artist, Ruth added.

Prior to selecting artist partners, Ruth said the carrier considers the artist’s performing ability, album quality, how easy the artist might be to work with and what issues it might run into surrounding licensing and other clearance dilemmas.

The carrier inks about 10 deep relationships with artists a year.

AT&T, Control Room, MediaFLO

When AT&T Mobility launched its Mobile TV with FLO service last month, it came out swinging with a 24/7 exclusive channel dedicated to concerts.

Control Room, a production and distribution company, signed a deal with the carrier to provide full concert footage from about 30 artists to air in 24-hour cycles on the channel each day. One day might be Lenny Kravitz and the next might be Rage Against the Machine.

The channel is exclusive to AT&T for 60 days.

Mike Bailey, VP of programming at MediaFLO USA, said MediaFLO selects which artists to air and decided to run the channel in 24-hour blocks while Control Room provides the content and helps optimize the channel for the FLO service.

“Our MTV channel is extremely popular, and the Control Room channel has also proven highly successful. We anticipate that music-related content, including live concerts, will continue to play a key role in our programming going forward,” he wrote in response to questions.

“As a part of a well-balanced programming lineup, we believe music … has a key role to play in attracting customers, particularly younger customers, to the FLO TV service.”

Bailey declined to release any specific viewing data. As to why the channel is only being made available for 60 days, Bailey said MediaFLO has seen great success with limited-duration channels that it’s done previously with X Games and Big Brother.

“We believe that these special programming offerings help to keep the service fresh and exciting for consumers,” he said.

GoTV on the concert experience

GoTV Networks Inc. has centered much of its concert programming on the experience a fan would have if they were at the concert or festival, Possum Hill, an executive producer at the company, wrote in response to questions.

“We hit as many concerts and festivals as possible,” Hill wrote. Viewership increased when the company started including snippets of live concert performances in addition to its acoustic lounge performance, Hill added.

“With the crazy costs of festivals and concerts these days, people want to see their favorite acts some how, some way.”