11 September 2009

MEF Americas Mobile Leadership Summit - Part 3

This is part 3 of 4 in a series that looks at the recent MEF Americas Mobile Leadership Summit, which took place on Tuesday 1 September 2009 at the Writer's Guild of America West headquarters in Los Angeles. You can also read parts 1, 2, and 4.

The subject of discussion for the first panel was meant to be how the entertainment industry ranked the mobile entertainment industry now that it's worth $32bil (according Nielsen), while theatrical boxoffice is $19.5bil.

It was moderated by Andrew Wallenstein (Hollywood Reporter) and featured Ron Czerny (CEO Playphone), Aaron Luber (Director Saffron Digital), Troy Carter (CEO Coalition Media), Doug Neil (SVP Universal Pictures), Steve Byrd (EVP STATs), Charles Slocum (Asst Exec Director) WGA.

I'm not sure that the panelists really addressed the issue at hand (kinda typical of panels frankly). The discussion ended up being more a series of anecdotes about what each company was doing or seeing in the space peppered with some frustrations:
  • There was a lot of perseverating about the iPhone (as usual)...and at one point Carter (who manages Lady GaGa) suggested that artists were currently really only interested in iPhone Apps when it comes to mobile
  • Byrd (who’s a sports content provider) said that mobile was becoming a bigger part of their business and he thought that highlights & full games will eventually drive a lot of consumption...he suggested the MLB.com At Bat application for iPhone was a good example
  • In response to all the iPhone/App Store froth Czerny made an amusing suggestion that it could be a passing trend...after all a couple of years ago all anyone could talk about were MVNOs
  • Luber agreed with Czerny, but said that iPhone was doing a good job of forcing the networks & OEMs to step up their games
  • WGA's Slocum said that iPhone was making video a better experience, but believed that greater adoption will come with original content made for mobile. He suggested that WGAmembers were eager to experiment in the medium, where they often have more creative freedom than in traditional media. He said that mobile was still waiting for its breakthrough content.
  • Neil expressed frustration with the difficulty in connecting a broad range of consumers in mobile (even with WAP) due to a variety of incompatible devices and networks...iPhone is good, but only one channel. He suggested marketers needed to be able to create campaigns/experiences with ubiquitous access for mobile to grow.
  • Czerny claimed that mobile was becoming a core part of studio film marketing and used the example of a High School Musical campaign Playphone ran for them as an example.
  • However, Neil's example of a free Bruno iPhone App promoted through Facebook that was downloaded by 100k fans contravened Czerny's that it's core...it seems more tactical for now.
  • Saffron's Luber suggested that one of the biggest barriers to growth for full length video content on mobile for entertainment companies is windowing. Studios refuse to risk current billion dollar businesses (like TV distribution) in order to "experiment" in a new medium. This will need to change if these companies want to see significant revenue in mobile.
  • Czerny said that revenue is still being driven by 1) ringtones, 2) games and 3) video...which is growing slowly due to network/device capabilities
  • Carter revealed that the 3 separate Lady GaGa iPhone Apps that his company deployed had 175k downloads over the last 90 days
  • Neil said that it is still difficult to figure out what the consumer wants in mobile since SEM and SEO are still pretty rudimentary in mobile...even Google doesn't have it figured out.
What was clear to me, despite Czerny's assertion, is that mobile is still (after all these years) pretty ancillary and mostly experimental for most entertainment companies. In other words, its still a pretty substantial opportunity despite the current size of the mobile entertainment market.

Read Part 4 in the series >>

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