The most misleading part of the whole discussion of mobile TV is the word TV. It brings to mind the set in the corner, which over several decades has settled into a comfortable pattern of half-hour slots, peak and off-peak schedules, and ads.
The audience is surfing Sky Plus and YouTube, but the main noise in mobile is coming from traditional TV channels defining the mobile TV proposition. This is an on-demand world, and mobile TV needs to provide a level of interactivity closer to the interactive red button than to the channel-based broadcast media of MTV or Channel 4. However, the other end of the spectrum is even less well-founded. At best, building a sustainable business model around pure user-generated content is vulnerable. At worst, it creates a highly commoditised market with very little value for anyone.
In the retail environment, people walk into your shop and ask for apples, and to succeed you give them apples – or face losing their custom to the shop next door. But in media, where the relationship is with audiences not customers, the shopper doesn’t know specific brands until they’ve tasted them. The brand is the media outlet itself – you press 3 on your telly because you like the way ITV commissions programmes. Or you buy the Telegraph because you like the way it presents the news. Content is not king; presentation is.
There’s much obsession with programme length. Everything has to be three minutes long (or 20 seconds, depending on who you talk to). But there’s strong evidence showing that the overall time a mobile viewer engages with content in one sitting is a lot longer. This means we need a more intelligent way of constructing the mobile experience, as programme editors have with magazine-style programming – cramming more into smaller time frames. Programme brands are important, of course; the editorial brand is what ultimately defines the experience. And in an on-demand world, owning the experience is owning the customer.
Continue the discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org. Morgan Holt is a digital media consultant formerly with Hutchison3G and Endemol