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Time Has Come Today: Mobile Video Year in Review

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If you are on another network or platform, most phones can still access MobiTV by paying a $9.95 monthly fee. These folks have figured out a lot of things that most carriers are still struggling with, and we will probably see more deals similar to the Sprint partnership as we move into 2008. With better interfaces and a focus on great content with minimal user issues, MobiTV takes the top prize in 2007.

YouTube—Best Free Distribution Service
More mobile devices had internet browsing capabilities in 2007 than at any time in the history of mobile devices. More mobile phone videos were recorded and uploaded online in 2007 than in years past as well. This was the year for YouTube to shine in distributing free videos to mobile devices. Because of the demand for access to viral and user-generated videos, YouTube was able to leverage itself into several exclusive partnerships with device manufacturers and wireless carriers. Such deals included devices like AT&T’s iPhone, with its exclusive YouTube channel, LG’s KU990, featuring direct upload to YouTube, and a host of other devices and services. These companies made sure they gave consumers what they wanted—to be able to record and watch YouTube videos.

YouTube’s m.youtube.com website interface allowed users to create mobile profiles; it made recording, uploading, and sharing videos a snap. There were critics who complained that YouTube and Google were dragging their feet and that it took longer than expected to provide true mobile interaction with the video giant. Overall, YouTube delivered on its promise to provide as much access to its video sharing website for mobile devices as it could. Where it dropped off, other websites offered conversion of YouTube videos to 3GP and other services, which allowed YouTube support for most mobile devices.

As we move more toward mobile browsers and our phones become an extension of our computer browsing experience, sites like YouTube will continue to dominate in serving up free videos.

Losers: Services
Wireless Carriers
2007 was the year of video on our mobile phones. The wireless carriers were supposed to be the ones to help us get there, but overall they stood in the way of making great mobile video experiences happen. In their defense, wireless carriers are not in the content business, but the shift from service provider to content distribution has been awkward at best and painful at worst.

One of the primary reasons wireless carriers lost in delivering content was a radical shift in consumer thinking. As mentioned before, the lines are blurring between our computers and our mobile devices. If I can watch content for free on my computer, then I want to be able to watch it for free on my mobile phone. Consumers saw free or ad-supported content online and expected it on their phones. Wireless carriers saw another revenue source and not a value-added service. Verizon, Sprint, and others charged a monthly fee for adding the ability to watch TV, YouTube, and other content on mobile phones. With the iPhone, AT&T (and I am sure others will follow) provided a flat data package that let you watch as many YouTube videos and other online content as you wanted. This war will continue in 2008, and the consumer is not the winner in this one.

The other reason the wireless carriers lost out in 2007 was their resistance to third-party integration and applications with their devices. I understand the reason they are resisting these changes—they will lose money. But they need to look at their long-term strategies and see how they can ultimately make mobile video a reality for their customers. Verizon got into a bout with Sling Media over the company’s mobile software, which lets users watch prerecorded SlingBox videos on their mobile devices. Most wireless carriers engage in the locking down of their phones so that they can allow only their own content on these devices, but this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

2007 was just the tip of the iceberg in the fight between consumers who want to watch their content and the wireless companies who want to lock it down.

Honorable Mentions
MTV Mobile—Best Content From a Network
Let’s face it, the big networks are slow, and it is hard to compete with overnight startups that are changing the video space on a daily basis. But one major network has been able to hang with the changes and even innovate in the mobile video space. MTV Mobile (www.mtv.com/mobile) has been partnering with multiple carriers and devices to serve up their TV shows such as Pimp My Ride and music videos for several years now. At the MTV Europe Music Awards in November 2007, most of the voting for videos was done via mobile devices, and participants got exclusive video clips and content they couldn’t get anywhere else. Keep on kicking it new school, MTV. I am sure we will see more from these guys in 2008.

Qik.com and Kyte.tv—Best Live Video From a Mobile Phone (tie)
2007 saw the birth of live video from a mobile phone in a format that’s easy to use and easy to share. Both Qik.com and Kyte.tv allow you to send live video from your mobile phone to an online audience. With higher-quality cameras and better data transfer, we got to watch events as they were actually happening. Users are flocking to this new form of content creation, and we can only expect this trend to grow in 2008.

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