With carriers inundated with proposals and big media options, direct-to-consumer mobile video may come on strong
With the success of MyWaves.com (1 million subscribers and counting) and CBS’s recent announcement that it was contracting with four mobile ad firms for its on and off-deck mobile media initiatives, the momentum for direct-to-consumer mobile video seems to be building. Getting content onto the mobile deck has become a long and tortuous process, especially for newcomers who don’t bring to Verizon VCast or Sprint TV the marquee value carriers crave. I have tracked companies over the past year that were promised deck placement month after month and ended up launching up to a year after originally scheduled. As well, the carriers still haven’t made up their minds about what video streams from which supplier gets to carry what form of advertising. For major media like the networks, who live and breath ad dollars, the lack of media savvy at the operator level has got to be frustrating. As John Gauntt, analyst for eMarketer told me recently, content merchandising by carriers has been a “disaster.” No wonder we are starting to see companies like MyWaves, MyCorner, 3Guppies, and CellFish emerge as serious players and the likes of CBS start erecting more of an off-portal strategy.
Versaly Entertainment, makers of the free and ad supported Fast Lane channel on Sprint is about to make its small network of mobile video for young men accessible to the wider audience off-deck allows. Versaly is an interesting company, in that it has evolved through all of the available models on decks. It ran for Sprint a fee-based entertainment news channel, but found the pay model limiting. It came back earlier this year with one of the first fully ad-supported and free mobile video products from a major carrier. Its Fast Lane was free to anyone with the Sprint PCS plan and a video-enabled phone. The company says that in about six months of operation it has served over 2 million video streams. What works for them? “Girls, girls, girls,” a company spokesperson tells me. Their channel of bikini-clad women has proven to be the killer content. Also interesting has been the ad model so far. Instead of pre-rolls (which the company will roll out at some point), Fast Lane created branded channels for BMW Mini and others to contain their video mini-series and branded entertainment. Within the context of a Fast Lane service for young men, the “ads” felt and looked more like more interesting content.
By going off-portal Fast Lane and Versaly have the opportunity to reach a cross-carrier audience and market the service more freely through search engines and mobile video portals. This can be as much a challenge as an opportunity, of course, but with some mobile brands like Crush or Flush, MobileSideWalk and MyWaves creating audiences without much help from the carriers one has to wonder if the mobile content economy may pass the Tier-1s by?