Upward Mobility

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By John Parnell    www.digitalproductionme.com 

With the Mobile TV Middle East conference in Dubai this month, DPme.com asks some of the platform’s stakeholders what the prospects are for wireless video services in the region.

CONTENT MUST FIT THE MARKET

Bashar Dahabra,
Founder and CEO, Info2Cell.

Bashar Dahabra
Bashar Dahabra

Providing mobile TV content in the Middle East is still a new concept that has yet to be fully accepted by the public. Despite this, we are looking at a potentially large mobile-user audience. One issue when introducing a new service like mobile TV is how to spread the word. We have previously promoted new services by sending out information on how to subscribe and content availability through SMS or MMS.

Because we are tapping into a large audience base, the kind of content that is broadcast must vary according to taste. The most popular video content is video clip excerpts from popular TV shows on traditional platforms.

The recent opening of the Dubai Metro offers us an unprecedented opportunity to encourage consumers in the emirate to sign up for mobile TV services. Commuters can now pass the time watching videos on their mobiles. This is a market that we haven’t been able to tap previously.

Since we are looking at a diverse market, the telco service providers should be more flexible in terms of revenue shares. The industry needs to understand that regional and minority target subscribers – from India and the Philippines for example – have certain tastes and preferences as to what kind of content they would like to subscribe to, and we need to respond accordingly.

Consumers have already warmed to the principle of paying for content. Download services for ringtones, wallpapers, MMS pictures and so on has given consumers the understanding that paying a nominal subscription fee provides them access to the latest applications and information. Offering mobile TV content is still very niche, however.

The telcos should be aware of their responsibility in choosing content that they are sending out to their subscribers.

FLEXIBILITY WILL BE KEY

Raghu Venkataraman,
EMEA board director, Mobile Entertainment Forum and EVP corporate strategy and strategic marketing, du.

There are basically two mobile TV routes, subscription services using DVB-H technology and the advertising model for re-broadcasting [on demand services, catch-up TV]. I believe the first phase of mobile TV will be based upon subscriptions but it will be less about revenue generation and more about educating the market, driving take-up and ensuring customers have the right handsets.

Spectrum availability and licensing costs plus handset availability are all key to the success of mobile TV as is the presence of a good symbiotic relationship between broadcasters and telcos. This will bring broadcasting expertise together with telco capability for managing customers and marketing services. I believe it’s an equal value proposition and a “win win” situation.

 We need to be able to experiment with different business models and have the flexibility to see what consumers want and respond accordingly.

HYBRID SATELLITE-TERRESTRIAL MODEL IS THE WAY FORWARD

Bilal Saleh,
Director, EMEA applications and mobile TV services, Motorola.

This region is unique in terms of common language, culture and to an extent religion. That means we can achieve economies of scale by having a spread of channels across the entire region. This is what makes the region unique. However, there will also have to be some country specific content.

Motorola has been promoting the concept of a hybrid terrestrial-satellite system. Primarily, a satellite broadcasts across the whole region and then ‘gap fillers’ plug the holes that the satellite signal cannot reach. This model is the most cost effective, a lot of studies have been done to establish this. It will require some collaboration between the operator of the satellite and terrestrial network – S2M – and the traditional telcos and of course the content providers.

The problem with 3G as a mobile TV platform is that it cannot be scaled up. However, 3G becomes critical for VOD services. To exploit on-demand services you need a return channel, you can’t use the broadcast model. The return channel allows broadcasters, telcos and network operators to collect viewership data that helps them target advertising and offer more personalised services. This is where 3G operators have had success, using streamed video to provide VOD content.

I don’t think that the broadcasters will depend on the telcos under the hybrid model. We have a new service provider operating the satellite and terrestrial network [S2M] and they will obtain the rights from the content owners.

Now for DVB-H, which is wholly terrestrial, the telcos deploy and manage the network and in this case they will have to develop their own relationships with the rights owners.

Ultimately, the issue relates to who gets what. Traditionally, when you talk about downloading content, the telco gets the lion’s share of the revenue and the content owners only get a small proportion.

The production costs of a TV show are much higher than the cost of developing some ringtones or wallpapers and as a result the revenue sharing equation has to change. There needs to be a restructuring of how royalties are paid under the current model, to reflect these differences.

In the end, I think we will see a combination of both kinds of business model. Primarily, it will be free-to-air subsidised by advertising. This will likely be supplemented by a bundle of premium channels. This will certainly be the case if broadcasters and operators start producing high-value made for mobile content.