TV On Mobile Telephones

CANNES, Oct 20 - TV on mobile phones may be tiny today in terms of screen size and program choice but it looks certain to grow rapidly in the coming years.
That was the upbeat message sent by leading TV and digital media executives taking part in the first ever Mobile Day'' at the annual MIPCOM audiovisual trade fair that closes its door in Cannes tomorrow. TV on the mobile has been one of the big successes of the last 12 months,’’ reality TV supremo Endemol’s chief creative exec Peter Bazalgette said in a keynote speech.
In 2005, mobile phone fans of Endemol’s global smash hit Big Brother notched up over six million streamed minutes and 500,000 downloads across Australia, Italy and Britain, Bazalgette told a packed auditorium.
Another worldwide sensation in 2005 was 24:Conspiracy, the first ever original live-action thriller produced exclusively for the cellphone by Fox Entertainment Group and distributed by Vodafone.
The 24-serialised 60-second mobile episodes, or so-called ‘mobisodes’, ran in 23 countries around the world.
This was music to the ears of the TV executives who are anxious to learn whether there is a future for television on the tiny device that has become the one thing no one - from teenager to adult - wants to leave at home. The road to the pot of gold, if there is one though, isn’t entirely smooth.
No one disputes the enormous size of the mobile phone market, which is expected to expand from today’s 700 million handsets to two billion by next year, rising to three billion by 2010.
But only a small minority of the mobiles in today’s market are the powerful third generation (3G) handsets that provide users with high-quality multimedia video, music and TV streaming.
Recent forecasts from Jupiter Research, however, suggest that 65 million people around the world will be subscribing to streaming or broadcast TV services by 2010.
There also remains a question mark over what type of TV will successfully migrate to the cellphone.
Sports and news are proven sure-fire winners as they can be easily consumed on the move and appeal to males who account for the majority of current 3G phone users. They can also be viewed in the brief three to five minute bursts that industry experts believe is about the maximum viewing length on mobiles.
For Endemol’s Bazalgette, three applications will be key in persuading mobile phone users to view TV on the pocket-sized screens.
Interactivity, including voting and interacting with reality formats such as Big Brother and FreemantleMedia’s talent show The X-Factor will be a vital ingredient.
Another is to offer well-known programmes such as soaps.
``Even if the picture quality isn’t brilliant, soap operas work very well on mobiles as people are emotionally involved with the characters and instantly recognise them,’’ Bazalgette pointed out.
The next step is to make tailor-made TV material for the mobile and this has already started to happen.
British broadcaster Channel 4’s comedy drama Totally Frank about a girl band called Frank has shot exclusive bite-sized mobisodes and interviews that fans can access on their cellphones.
Endemol also announced today that it will soon launch an Extreme Reality Channel featuring a non-stop parade of bizarre and weird video clips from the world of entertainment. It will follow this with a Comedy Channel made up of short comedy clips.
Mobile TV, however, won’t just be for adults. Leading broadcasters and programme makers are creating content for teenagers down to the smallest family members. Kids TV veteran Sesame Workshop provides a mix of education and animation as well as music clips.
News that animation giant Disney will launch Disney Mobile next year means that kids mobile could take off quickly.
Women are also being catered for, albeit in sometimes rather strange ways. Fashion TV has been readily available on mobile phones for a couple of years now. But the latest show, which was not for the fainthearted, was Cosmetic Surgery Live that showed live surgery taking place.
Aired on Britain’s Channel Five and 3G operator 3, viewers were able watch the show as well as send in photos of parts of their bodies and have them discussed, for a price, by a cosmetic surgeon who made suggestions for improvements.