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MIPTV: Life's a Pitch

CANNES, France -- MIPTV -- If you need children's TV content, Japanese cartoons, and hours of programming based on bikini-clad women doing, well, just about anything legal, then this is the place for you.

But while the show floor is awash with derivative TV programs, the conference halls are dominated by the new media outlets -- namely, the telecom networks. Mobile TV dominates the presentation schedules, yet a quick straw poll of TV content makers here suggests few see any revenue potential in the concept of cell phone viewing.

That view is strengthened by Sling Media Inc. 's ability to stream a person's home TV content to a mobile device hooked up to a WLAN or 3G network. Surely, say MIPTV exhibitors, if people will watch anything on their mobile devices it'll be the content they know and love? (See MIPTV: View From the Other Side and Sling Media: We're Good for Cable.)

While that view may not suit the many vendors desperate to sell their mobile TV systems to the carriers, the upside for the operators is that a successful uptake of Sling Media's product could generate a faster uptake of 3G subscriptions. Every cloud…

What is exciting the content owners, though, is the prospect of selling their content over the Internet directly to broadband customers, using download and/or streaming technology, via aggregation sites and portals such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Amazon .

That business model of cutting out the potential middlemen -- the big studios and telecom network operators -- is also exciting one of the Internet's biggest brands.

Miller's tale
Jonathan Miller, chairman and CEO of AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL), is very keen on a one-to-one relationship with the broadband user. He believes a great way to make money from TV content is to make it available online and package it with advertising the consumer can't skip, as AOL has done for its In2TV service, where old TV shows from AOL's Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) sister company Warner Bros. can be viewed for free. [Ed. note: Okay, maybe AOL didn't buck the studio system entirely... ]

Miller told a packed auditorium here that ever increasing broadband penetration and the advent of video search facilities, which "are not yet as good as text search engines, but they're getting better all the time," would make "ad supported content" the dominant model for online content.

The go-between
But there's business to be had in acting as the mediator between the content players and the service providers. Entriq Inc. is an ASP (application service provider) that has developed a platform enabling media companies to drag and drop their content into its system, which then manages the digital rights, security, tracking, and billing. The content can then be delivered to mobile phones and PCs and via IPTV networks to TV sets, depending on the sales and distribution model deployed.

This appears to be an attractive model, not only for media producers -- Entriq's system is already in use by a number of content owners such as MTV and NBC -- but also for telecom operators planning IPTV and video-on-demand (VOD) services and needing third-party content. The firm's VP of marketing, Stephen Condon, says announcements with Tier 1 European carriers are due in the coming weeks.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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