CTIA: Streaming TV companies bring long-form content to mobile
mSpot links video streaming between PCs, mobile; Real launches Mobile Video Portal; MobiTV lets users store DRM-protected content; US Cellular brings mobile VOD through QuickPlay Media.
Despite the limitations of the mobile phone in screen size, network quality and battery drain, mobile video and even television watching has increasingly been capturing consumer interest. To encourage — and monetize — this interest, a number of mobile video and TV companies are announcing news at CTIA geared toward making the mobile phone a more attractive viewing platform.
On the video front, mobile media specialist mSpot, also known for its ringtone and radio platforms, unveiled its PC to mobile phone video streaming service today. Dubbed Mobile Movies, the service lets users instantly stream full-length new release movies to their PC, Mac or cell phone, as well as switch between the various devices without losing their spot.
The service builds on mSpot’s mobile-only streaming service announced last year, which spans all four major US carriers and 50 mobile phones, including the iPhone – the only place mSpot offers an app instead of browser-based streaming, BlackBerry, Palm, Android and Windows Mobile.
At launch, mSpot, which cuts its own deals with the studios, already has a number of studios signed up, including Paramount, Universal, Image Entertainment and Screen Media Ventures. mSpot CEO Daren Tsui said the site, mSpotMovies.com, offers just shy of 1,000 movies, primarily new releases, with more added every day. Users can enter a credit card to rent and stream movies at $4.99 each or join a monthly Movie Club subscription service for unlimited rentals at $9.99 to $15.99 per month for rentals lasting 24 hours to five days, depending on the title. mSpot also supports 18 different versions of every movie, varying by codec, bitrate and aspect ratio.
“This is something fairly unique to mSpot: every single one of our movies has at a minimum 18 different codings,” Tsui said. “We do that because there are different sizes of displays for handsets and different networks and speeds. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to pick up a Netflix stream on the PC side and watch it over 3G. We will have a 3G encode that works with the right codec on your phone and make sure its small enough so that we don’t sacrifice on quality too much.”
mSpot’s subscriber base includes more than six million consumers worldwide, but the company doesn’t break them down by service type or payment method. The company faces competition first and foremost from Apple’s iTunes model, which focuses on mobile downloads. Tsui said mSpot differentiates itself with instantaneous streaming and no cable synching needed. It is also in the growing category occupied by a number of mobile TV and video providers, including CTIA attendees RealNetworks, MobiTV and QuickPlay Media
REAL NETWORKS UNVEILS ITS MOBILE VIDEO PORTAL
RealNetworks, another company with roots that span mobile media, is using CTIA to demonstrate its new Mobile Video Portal (MVP), aimed at mobile operators and media companies. Real, which powers mobile video for both Verizon Wireless and AT&T, is using its MVP as a white-label platform for live and on-demand video apps that can be published to the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Java-based handsets, as well as mobile Web sites on most devices.
Within the MVP, carriers can add branding, sponsorship and advertising or opt to charge a subscription or rental fee for their video services. In total, Vincent Guytán, product management director for mobile video at RealNetworks, said that the end-to-end carrier support includes ingesting, encoding, video file storage, streaming, ad-server integration, reports and analytics and development tools for building an app or Web service.
“We can bring the service up a lot sooner with the new tools and give them a lot more features,” Guytán said, adding that Real has partnered with DoubleClick to provide display ads and Omniture for reporting and metrics. The company has been working on the MVP for over a year now, he said, as part of its application service provider (ASP) business that includes music, ringback tones and video.
US CELLULAR ADDS VOD FROM QUICKPLAY MEDIA
Consumers have demonstrated that they not only want video on their mobile phones, but they want it to mirror their at-home experience and they want it on their own schedules. Carriers have been forced to respond to this time-shifting trend, the latest being US Cellular, which announced this week that it would offer its first video on-demand service from QuickPlay Media.
The service will be available to those US Cellular customers that subscribe to the regional carrier’s Premium Mobile Internet and SmartPhone access plans, and will include streaming video clips across a range of content – it specifically highlighted music videos, movie trailers, comedy, entertainment news and extreme sports. While the service focuses on quick-hit clips, the companies said that the Video Clips service would draw on users’ viewing habits and highlight featured videos.
MOBITV USES DRM FOR TV-SHOW STORAGE
Mobile TV also got some attention at CTIA from attendees like MobiTV. With a fix from digital rights management (DRM), the TV app provider is now letting subscribers to its business-to-business mobile TV service stores their shows on their mobile phones to watch offline. By adding a layer of DRM-protected security and including authentication for the content, companies can offer the service with a lot more business models than previously possible, the company said. This includes subscription, rental, content metering or content sharing model. Like a DVR, the service lets users watch the stored content on any device, without requiring new DRM for each.
MobiTV’s subscription service, available through Verizon Wireless and Sprint, costs users $9.99 per month for more than 25 channels, including networks like NBC, Fox and ESPN.
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