Mobile TV is a minefield for everybody involved

The big media companies want to have their cake and eat it, too, when it comes to mobile video, and this, I think, will not go over well with consumers. According to Online Media Daily, panelists at the Media Summit New York last week discussed their “preference” for a dual revenue stream model in the mobile video space. Like cable, NBCU and Disney want subscriber fees AND advertising revenues in distributing their content via mobile devices. You want mobile video, you pay a fee to your carrier and then sit through advertising.

No thanks, folks.

NBCU is a place where we make money from distribution partners and advertisers,” said Chip Canter, vice president, wireless platform development at NBC Universal Digital Distribution. “What we’re trying to do is drive dual-revenue stream models: fees for distribution and supplement that with advertising.”

…Tim Connolly, vice president for mobile distribution, ABC, Disney and ESPN Media Networks, explained that Disney isn’t about to offer cable programming for free (ad-supported only) on mobile when it charges cable operators a licensing fee for the same content. “The ad infrastructure in mobile is incredibly immature,” he said. “It’s not anywhere near the point of making it freely available today because the ad structure isn’t there to support it.”

I think all of these people underestimate consumers, who have the power to say “no,” because there are so many other ways to access network “content.” Mobile TV applications, like Verizon’s V‑Cast, are pretty cool, but they’re not cheap. Until people can view mobile TV via their living room sets, I just don’t see this taking off like the networks hope it will. And if there will be ways (Bluetooth?) to move your mobile signal to the “big” TV, who’s going to pay for cable?

And all of these companies are going to have to deal with the clout of Mobile Digital Television (MDTV), which is coming downstream. Media companies with licenses to broadcast digital programming to mobile devices would love to have subscriber fees, but the medium wasn’t created for that. Because it’s free, however, the value proposition for advertising is much more acceptable to consumers, and this is where the money will come from.

I believe the networks need to work with their affiliates to provide cable programming (they all own cable programming) to mobile devices for free, simply because it will be a powerful, new advertising vehicle. If local stations can only broadcast local programming and their own signals, it’s not going to be a profitable venture for anybody. If the nets absolutely insist on subscriber fees, that might be all right as well, but those fees aren’t going to amount to much, especially in the beginning. It’ll take awhile to establish measurement paradigms and the static advertising platform that businesses will need. And if consumers want to move their MDTV to the living room set, the signal will be high-quality and digital, much more suited to a bigger screen.

This is a minefield for everybody involved, and the networks should tread lightly. The dual path may well survive, but it’s very unlikely it’ll be in the form the networks want. Advertising, for example, may be “supplemental” to the nets, but it’s damned irritating to end users. Will a viewer in the supermarket really want to sit through a 5‑minute commercial pod?

Of course, if the networks continue to insist on this “dual path,” then certainly they will one day demand subscriber fees from their affiliates as well. What will happen then? Stay tuned.

YouTube to content partners: Advertise away

TechCrunch is reporting that YouTube is beginning to allow content partners to serve their own ads along with videos they make available via the service. This is, of course, pretty huge. It’s one of the key principles of monetizing unbundled media and one that mass media types will immediately welcome. After all, who has a bigger mass that YouTube, right?

Erick Schonfeld, who wrote the TechCrunch piece, rightly notes that Google wants to monetize YouTube any way it can.

The ability to sell their own ads on YouTube is a big deal for larger media companies, especially those which are already selling Web video ads across their own sites. Media companies with lots of video tend to have large advertising sales teams that are typically able to command better ad rates than what YouTube can get. The prospect of selling ads against all of their videos on YouTube at those higher ad rates has them salivating, even if they have to share the spoils with YouTube.

As for YouTube, content from media partners represents maybe only 4 percent of all videos on the site, but it is where nearly all of its advertising dollars are coming from. Anything to make that part of the pie bigger would have an outsized impact on YouTube’s revenues.

There will no doubt be a scramble by TV stations (and newspapers) now to create the YouTube channels that they should have been running all along, and that will be a good thing. When that happens, media companies will have to ask themselves if it makes business sense to run videos any other way. After all, it doesn’t cost anything to embed videos from YouTube, and if you can attach your ads, why spend the money on your own storage and streaming? Most likely, we’ll begin to see some sorts of combinations of YouTube and proprietary Flash players, but even that would alter the dynamics and increase the quantity of professional video available via YouTube.

One other thing to note about this: it’s very Google. Google’s core product, search, is free. The company makes its money by putting ads all over the Web — on the very sites to which its search engine leads. YouTube will follow the same model, it appears.

As I say so often: stay tuned.

Competition is a good thing, right?

I was reminded again this morning of Stowe Boyd’s wonderful line from the Micropayments story below:

Imagine if some group of news companies could put aside their competitive instincts long enough to see what Huffington Post is up to.

Ah, those competitive instincts. As I have written many times, they are the biggest block to progress for media companies online, because media companies foolishly think that their only competition is other media companies.

Today, MediaPost offers an interesting little piece on the plans by CBS for their video portal, (it came in the deal with CNet). The idea is to use the portal for video, information and social-networking, the latter being the differentiator with other sites.

Because of CBS’ non-exclusive big-tent approach to online video and TV, Soohoo (Anthony Soohoo, SVP and GM of entertainment and lifestyle for CBS Interactive) claims that “actually has the largest TV show library on the Web.” has deals with Sony, MGM, PBS, and Endemol as well as Fox and NBC content through Hulu. There is, of course, content from CBS and CW.

Interesting that will be pulling videos from, the NBC and Fox video portal. ABC will be next.

These guys just can’t seem to get that a one-stop shop would be the winner, but those competitive instincts are likely to keep it from happening. The idea should be to compete within a known universe, a single web address, rather than compete against each other via the whole web. I wrote about this in 2007 (Creating Spectrum Within Spectrum). is a great brand and one that would play nicely with everybody in the TV space. It creates an immediate image of what it is. YouTube has everything else. Sorry.

Personal media has a BIG future

Doc nails it this morning in a post “A world of producers.”

There’s a good chance that the best picture you can put on your HD screen doesn’t come from your cable or satellite TV company, but from your new HD camcorder. As time and markets march on, that chance will only get larger.

…And as camcorder quality goes up, more of us will be producing rather than consuming our video. More importantly, we will be co-producing that video with other people. We will be producers as well as consumers.

Last year, Nokia projected that, by 2012, one-quarter of all entertainment would be created and consumed within peer groups, and I still believe that’s a doable number. For television stations — especially those already playing in the HD world — it’s an opportunity to create a new revenue stream by providing stock video that people can use to make their own, well, whatever.

Speaking of which… David Weinberger points to this most excellent mash-up of “40 Inspirational Moments” in film from the people at

A pre-election video treat

This wonderful video is a classic example of what remixing can accomplish. From the “unfair and unbalanced” 23/6 website, this is a commentary on the debates and on the process of “talking points,” something we all intuitively sense but have never seen displayed with those words on top of themselves. Enjoy.

Thanks to Duncan Riley at The Inquisitr.

Quote of the day

Kevin Roach, acting head of domestic broadcast news operations, The Associated Press:

“In all the traveling I do, I always flip on local stations and I often hear — still after all these years it just blows me away — the line that drives me crazy, which is, “For more on this story go to our Web site.” What does that mean? To me, to the customer, to the viewer, I think it means nothing. It means a whole lot of nothing.”