Future Of Television Includes Mobile

Marketers need to get into digital video, if only to beat their competitors. “People are creating and sharing content way more than in the past,” said Ned Sherman, CEO and publisher of Digital Media Wire, as he kicked off the Future of Television West conference Tuesday in Hollywood, California.

Mobile video and mobile TV are still new territory. As networks post episodes of popular shows, they are still trying to find out the best way to monetize digital video that’s online, on the phone, or anywhere else. At the same time, it’s already possible use phones to get viewers engaged, and to bring the hottest type of content to the handset. Even 3D movies!

It’s not so much a disconnect as it is a lack of ability to connect the dots. At the conference, most of the experts agreed that digital distribution of content is important since consumers want to control what, when, and where they watch video–the latter of which is what makes the mobile platform so important. “I’m interested in seeing how this will all play out in mobile… The best we can do is find devices that are relevant to us right now,” said Mark Wurtzel, West Coast Sales Manager for Google TV Ads.

Speakers also reiterated quality of content, for that is what will make consumers want to engage with the show or movie, which in turn will result in revenue, because consumers will be willing to pay for things related to the video brand. Marketing videos will also reap this benefit, as long as they’re relevant and entertaining to the viewer. (No cholesterol medication ads on action shows, please!) As Mitch Berman, CEO and founder of ZillionTV, said, “You have to have compelling content.”

To be sure, most people showed enthusiasm for mobile even if they weren’t sure how to leverage the platform for content providers. But everyone agreed that it involves engaging the consumer. Every time I heard this brought up, I would think to myself, “Well, mobile messaging is one way to get consumers involved.” 

And one company that has a handle on this is Lionsgate. It’s not too surprising that Lionsgate seems mobile-ly and digitally savvier than its competition. Consider that it was the first major movie studio to announce that it would start selling video on iTunes– major news back in 2006, I assure you! Alex Barkaloff, Lionsgate’s Executive Producer, Digital Media, talked about taking advantage of smartphones. With such handsets, people can watch videos on them and then immediately follow a call to action via text messaging. “Smartphones are now so robust and so able to handle multimedia effortlessly,” he said. “If you’re watching something, you’ll see something like ‘text this word to this number’ and when (consumers) do, they then go to the app store… That ecosystem is starting to happen right now.”

Mr. Barkaloff’s comment sounds old hat to people familiar with mobile marketing, but it’s still a new idea to a great many marketers whose strengths remain in traditional media. (I’ll be interviewing him about Lionsgate’s “Instantly Rich” campaign, which incorporates what he talked about, in the near future.) What’s new to mobile marketing experts, though, is that they may soon be able to present their messages in 3D.

Phil Lelyveld, advisor to the University of Southern California’s new Entertainment Technology Center, told me that technology currently exists to provide three-dimensional video on mobiles. Specifically, there are high-tech stereoscopic screens (think of those neat hologram things you’d get in a Crackerjack box) for laptops and iPhones currently made by a company called Special View. The screens, admittedly, haven’t been 100 percent perfected. But when they are, then any traditional method of transmitting video to a phone–mobile Internet sharing site, mobile TV attached to digital TV signals, etc.–will work for a 3D video. “Resolution is not a bandwidth problem,” Mr. Lelyveld said. He added that the ETC plans to research all five of the 3D video technologies that are out there, “and what we’re trying to do is find out what’s best, and facilitate convergence.”

The ETC goings-on will excite us mobile marketing veterans. But while they university center works on it, we should help spread the word that digital media can be boosted by digital marketing. And even become a part of digital marketing.