The March of Mobile Video – The Payers and Players

One single mobile phone can access the entire World Wide Web and at the same time video continues to proliferate the Internet. Do you see a connection here? After conquering cyberspace, video as entertainment and advertising continues its media march into mobile technology. Faster broadband, larger and more colorful cell phone screens, and an increase in wireless Web, video, and text messaging are all factors contributing to a mobile video surge. With 25 mobile phones created every second and 2 billion mobile phones currently in use worldwide, the opportunities for mobile video, and hence artistic and work opportunities for video/audio content creators, staggers the mind. The money tells all: advertisers spent $45 million on mobile advertising in 2005, $871 million in 2006, and are projected to spend $1.3 billion by 2010. Advertisers plan to spend this “mobile money” on, you guessed it, advertisements, and in particular video advertisements. Mobile video ads are an area of growing interest and the tiniest fraction of this re-routed advertising money in the pockets of video/audio producers and editors would be, at the risk of being mundane, rather nice, no?

Who’s Playing and Paying?

A plethora of companies which include cell-phone carriers such as Verizon and Sprint, internet portals such as Google and Yahoo, TV networks such as MTV Networks and Comedy Central, and start-ups such as AdMob and Third Screen Media are scrambling to develop and provide mobile video for entertainment as well as advertising. Specific examples include; Verizon’s mobile pact with YouTube to offer mobile video, MTVN’s formation of MTV Mobile Media, a new unit dedicated to growing the company’s mobile entertainment business, Fox Entertainment’s release last summer of two- minute spinoff “mobidsodes” of its popular show “24,” Anheuser-Busch’s and American Express’s release of their standard TV ads on cellphone video services, and Comedy Central’s recent announcement to begin airing episodes of “Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States,” an animated parody series and first show originally produced for cell phones by a US TV network.

Types of Mobile Programming being Produced:

Both original made-for-mobile programs and extensions of existing TV shows are being produced for mobile video. Made-for-mobile programs include MTV’s popular “Sway’s Hip Hop Owner’s Manual”, CMT’s “Road Hammers”, Comedy Central’s “ClipJoint”, and VH1’s “Celebhead.” Extensions from television programming, such as short clips for mobile use include Comedy Central’ Peabody and Emmy Award-winning “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”; MTV’s “Laguna Beach”; Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants”; VH1’s “Best Week Ever, “The Sopranos” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” MTVN also offers original animation, music video premieres, and content highlighting socially significant issues such as AIDs/HIV awareness (MTV Networks 12/18/06). The list of available video content for mobile phones grows exponentially and daily.

Opportunities in Mobile Video/Audio Production:

The opportunities for video/audio content production for mobile technology are very real. Contacting any production company now producing mobile content could very easily produce gigs for video/audio producers and editors as demand for mobile content increases. Start-up GoTV Networks Inc., for example, now produces 303 shows and more than 60 hours of programming each month for Sprint Nextel Corp, Verizon Wireless and Cingular, and 300,000 cell phone users pay $6 a month for its music, sports and comedy programming. (Source: NY Times 12/26/06) Another example is GoTV Mobile Television at which offers different “stations” that feed subscribers a daily digest of hip-hop culture, college sports, weather, or soaps. For a very real opportunity, visit iThentic on the web, a mobile distribution company actively seeking content. While their monetary offer for content may be deemed a bit low, one can still gain a sense of the ins and outs of the mobile content production and distribution. A thorough search and listing of mobile content buyers and distributors needs to be done ASAP for gig hungry video/ audio producers or production companies looking to expand their clientele. Please contact me if you’d like to participate or if you have such a list.

Tips for Mobile Video Production

There are several tips to keep in mind when producing and editing content for mobile video. Clips should be short, generally under three minutes, to accommodate viewing “on the go.” Cell phone shows also contain more close-ups, tight shots, and limited movement to provide for the small screen and slower frame speed available The audio should be crisper than “normal” due to the absence of bass on mobile phones. Text and subtitles should be minimal because of difficulty reading on the smaller cell phone screen. One suggestion to actually take shots on a video-phone before filming to check whether the scene is actually a viable option for mobile use. Delivery formats to mobile content providers in general include the following: File sizes 15 MB or less as Windows Media (.wmv); Audio Video Interleave (.avi); QuickTime (.mov); MPEG 1/2/4 (.mpg, .mpeg); 3rd Generation Partnership Project (.3GPP); Flash; DVD; Digital Video. All formats should be encoded at 320 x 240 (Source: Wall Street Journal 12/04/06)