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Broadcasting in Digital

1 Jul, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

The 2009 transition will eventually change the way that Americans watch TV and the way that marketers buy media for broadcasting on sets, mobile phones and the Internet.

And further down the line, the medium will open up new possibilities for television advertisers. "There will be more consumers to watch, so from a broadcaster and advertiser's point of view, that means more eyeballs on content," says Levy.

For instance, what if a cliffhanger episode of a television show triggers a consumer to use the phone's datalink to jump to the Internet and check out another episode? This could also mean more revenue for the mobile operator. And if a show — as is done successfully on Fox's "American Idol" — uses texting to vote, it means more average revenue per user.

While the future of mobile broadcasting is still unknown, Levy gets excited at the prospects of free-to-air. He anticipates larger audience and revenue possibilities for broadcasters, advertisers and service providers. And eventually, there may be a second primetime: rush-hour traffic.

"As we see GPS tie into this model, I won't be surprised if one day you're watching TV as you walk by a Burger King, and you'll see an ad on your phone that says, 'Don't you feel like a Whopper today?'" he says.

San Diego-based MediaFLO, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, hosts a similar television-to-mobile company; however, the programs are time-shifted and aired through phones via FLO TV. MediaFLO began a deal with Verizon Wireless in 2007 and in May signed a deal with AT&T. It now offers services in 58 markets across the country and anticipates more launches as local broadcasters vacate some of the spectrum during the digital transition. MediaFLO works with entertainment companies such as CBS, NBC, Fox, MTV Networks and ESPN.

MediaFLO's expanding business is geared toward men and women, mostly those between the ages of 18-49, but it considers its target audience to be "anyone who loves TV." Until recently, in the United States, downloadable mobile video clips had poor picture quality. That, plus long wait times for content, confusing navigation menus and progress bars, slowed the medium's spread in the United States (as opposed to a much more rapid spread in Asia because of its more advanced wireless networks).

"This was an unfortunate introduction to mobile entertainment for many," says Matt Milne, senior vice president of sales and marketing, MediaFLO. "Consumers expected more than that — they wanted a mobile TV experience comparable to the one they enjoy at home: a crystal clear image, great programming and an intuitive interface."

But Milne says FLO TV has now leaped past the mobile TV infrastructure in other countries. The remaining challenge is for marketers to sell the idea to consumers.

"Going forward, we believe that the key to driving demand is making consumers aware of the great programming we have on the FLO TV service, and by highlighting the fact that it is very different from the more limited mobile video consumers may have experienced before," says Milne. This means marketing throughout the entire mobile TV ecosystem: MediaFLO USA, wireless companies, device manufacturers and the media and entertainment companies themselves.

"Over time, and particularly after the digital TV transition when the service will be available in many more markets, you will see a great deal more marketing muscle behind mobile TV," he says. Milne looks forward to the switch because it means an additional amount of free spectrum available for mobile TV services and more choices for consumers.

And how does the company plan to market? MediaFLO wants to work with broadcast advertisers to make ads more relevant to the mobile consumer. This will be done in a variety of ways including new advertising formats, mobile-specific advertising content, interaction with ads, audience segmentation and addressability.

"As the industry evolves and matures — and as our services become available in even more markets, particularly after the transition — you will see an increasing amount of DR activity from MediaFLO and our partners," says Milne.

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