Mobile Video: All you need to know about creation & distribution

Mobile Video: All you need to know about creation & distribution

Produced in association with Fun Little Movies, and moderated by Fun Little Movies president/COO Frank Chindamo, this NATPE 2010 panel on mobile video featured Catherine Warren, president, FanTrust Entertainment Strategies, Jonathan Barzilay, SVP of programming and advertising at FLO TV and Amber Lawson, comedy publisher of Babelgum.

Barzilay described FLO TV, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, as a subscription-based service but noted that the company has gone “direct to consumer” with a personal TV device, a small screen without a phone. “We’ll also be bringing FLO TV to automobiles,” he added, explaining that FLO TV is not delivered through the 3G network but rather UHF spectrum.

Babelgum, said Lawson, is a mobile (and Internet) TV platform, supported by advertising, that distributes licensed and original content. Babelgum offers four channels: comedy, film, Metropolis and music. “We’re smart comedy for smart phones,” says Lawson who notes the company is launching into branded entertainment.Launched earlier this year on an iPhone app, Babelgum is also moving onto the Android platform. Lawson reported that the company has had its first viral hit with Jersey Shore, which has small children re-enacting the MTV reality show of the same name. There are four channels: comedy, film, Metropolis and music. Smart comedy for smart phones, is what we call it. 

Warren addressed best practices for monetizing mobile video. “At FanTrust Entertainment Strategies, we capitalize on ways you can market and monetize mobile video,” said Warren, noting that the company has worked with Nokia, Orange, and Bell, among others. “We also work with TV producers and other rights holders interested in multi-platform deals. I like how fans monetize, socialize and interact with mobile entertainment.” Among her “case studies,” she showed the Bump! gay travel guides and mobile video apps and a mobile geo-location game for former webisode series/current SyFy hit Sanctuary. For both projects, they worked with Metranome.

“Be prepared to adapt your mobile strategy as you get feedback from fans,” said Warren. “They enjoy upgrades and changes. We have to live through recommendations and true collaboration with fans.”

Chindamo introduced his company, Fun Little Movies that licenses and produces short form entertainment, with 150 series in its library.  Fun Little Movies content is on the top deck of Sprint, part of the Babelgum platform and distributed throughout Asia. Chindamo showed an example,  Be-Wildered, which was produced for Planet Green, as a way to bring comedy to the brand and reach out to females.

Chindamo asked the panelists to describe how their company makes money with mobile content. FLO TV is a subscription service, which is paid to the mobile carrier or FLO TV itself. “We take a share of that, some of which goes to the build and maintenance of our broadcast network,” said Barzilay. “And some goes towards licensing the content. There is also an advertising component, but we don’t have the scale to make that too meaningful. At present, we tend towards the subscription side.”

A privately funded company, Babelgum does display advertising, said Lawson. “In 2010, we’ll do our first branded entertainment deal,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of it;  I believe it’ll be our entire ecosystem and work on mobile and online.”

Warren said her company makes its money “through a traditional old school model which is management consulting.”

“On the mobile side, the most important thing that rights holders have done is choose a mobile app provider that knows how to build and bake the marketing into the app itself,” she said. “You have to work hand-in-glove with them and tell them your goals, so they can create something that can make that happen.  And you have to be willing to share your business strategy to make that successful.” Sponsorship has also been successful, she added. “One client spent $30K on an app and within a week attracted a $300K sponsor,” said Warren who declined to name the client. “Part of it was the content partner they had. The app provider worked with the rights holder to tell them how to sell the sponsorship and was in the room where the sponsorship pitches were happening. You have to be a real partner with your app provider.”

Fun Little Movies licenses its content, said Chindamo, but “those are small dollars.” “The revenue share checks aren’t colossal wins,” he said. “The larger dollars come from working with advertisers and sponsors. We were paid an upfront licensing fee from Planet Green, for example, and then as advertisers sign on to that series, we’ll be able to aggregate more money towards it.”

“You need a network,” said Lawson. “Nine times out of 10, there has to be media around the content that has to be delivered and measured, so sponsors have an ROI. Having a partner like Babelgum can insure that. We have the infrastructure already built for you, and that’s one of the reasons why you partner with a company like us.”

Barzilay noted that FLO TV has a deal with Rentrak which does its viewership analytics. “We’re able to provide minute-by-minute [analytics] and work with content providers to optimize things,” he said. “Some things are counter-intuitive. Our primetime, for example, is during the day, lunchtime, as opposed to TV, where it peaks at 10 pm. On FLO’s mobile service, it climbs at 11 am, peaks at 1 pm, stays high throughout the day and then go down.”

Chindamo asked FLO TV’s Barzilay and Babelgum’s Lawson how content creators can help them make money. “You start with larger brands to drive a subscription service,” said Barzilay. “People are drawn to larger brands, to stay connected to Fox news or a football game. But with the younger demo, we think there is an audience for short-form content that can help engage people. This is an incredibly cross-platform ecosystem nowadays;  they can connect to the content on mobile, online, on TV and shift back and forth. The immediacy of the mobile platform and that everyone has it are the distinguishing elements. We’re always with you when you travel. Every content provider is interested in pushing the content through all the different platforms.”

“Amen to that,” said Lawson. “I believe we must take advantage of this awesome device. I know what I am programming and what I’m contracting people to do is event-based, is exclusive, is celebrity. We are disruptive, satirical and high brow brand if you will. Those are the kind of people we attract to smart, edgy comedy. What will be disruptive enough you’d like to watch on the phone? It’s live, exclusive, moments in time. That’s what I’m looking for: big experiences, talent and celebrity. And whenever we have brand opportunities that can work.”

Warren said there are three types of mobile content that can be monetized now. “Linear content; the interactive or rich media content which has traditionally lived on the internet but also the mobile phone; and then the social/intellectual property,” she enumerated. “Companies who do well in this space have social games that travel across all the social networking spaces. You have to monetize on all three fronts.”

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