Vodafone hails 'coming of age' for mobile TV

Vodafone has hailed the "coming of age for mobile TV" after revealing its mobile TV service is now more successful than ringtones. Jonathan Bill, Vodafone head of category management, told New Media Age magazine: "Mobile TV is now bigger than ringtones, the stalwart of mobile content. This is the coming of age for mobile TV." Vodafone's revelation came on the day that industry players discussed likely winning strategies for mobile TV, and whether services should be designed for "snacking" or long-form entertainment.

Vodafone told NMA that over half of all new 3G customers choose to subscribe to mobile TV, paying £5 per month each for two Sky packs, or a Vodafone pack for £5, or all three for £10. NMA said most new customers choose the £10 option. "One of the reasons we've been so successful is we made it ubiquitous from launch, you didn't need a specific application or phone," Bill told NMA. "Also, 'Sky on a phone' is easy to understand for consumers."

A Westminster eForum seminar on mobile sports rights meanwhile heard from Bruce Renny, marketing director at mobile technology group ROK Entertainment, that most mobile subscribers accessed multimedia services for three minutes, three times per day. Services designed to deliver short information bursts were therefore likely to be successful.

That was confirmed by David Stranks, now head of new media at production house Sunset + Vine but formerly executive producer at 3 where he devised its World Cup mobile TV coverage. Stranks said the challenge facing 3 was that 31% of its user base of just over 3m 3G subscribers had never used mobile audio-visual services; 24% had tried but gave up; 31% were "semi-active" and only 14% were active users. At the same time research by Olswang suggested 37% of mobile subscribers did not want to pay for mobile video services.

3's free World Cup coverage included match previews, highlights, alerts, a 15-minute daily chat show, and a nine-second clip of every goal within five minutes of it being scored. During the tournament 740,000 subscribers per week watched the World Cup service. "It proves that the right event offered at the right price can attract the casual sports enthusiast," said Stranks.

Though the chat show attracted 100,000 users per week Stranks said it would have been better to have broken up the 15-minute programme and offer it as three-minute chunks.

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