Musician Craig David set the tone of the mobile entertainment summit at the 3GSM World Congress on Wednesday by singing a song and telling a packed auditorium that mobile phones will have a huge impact on the music industry.
"The music industry has gone from vinyl records to CDs and is now moving to mobile devices," said David, a former DJ turned singer. "We all need to work together on this new channel -- musicians, recording companies, handset manufacturers and mobile phone operators alike."
Although the market is still "tiny" at around US$5 billion annual revenue, it offers huge potential, said Rolando Balsinde, global head of telecommunications at McKinsey & Co.
But Peter Erskine, chief executive officer of mobile network operator mm02 PLC warned about "pushing new technology at consumers that isn't quite ready." The telecommunications industry, he said, has been known to do this, scaring consumers away instead of attracting them to new services.
Mobile TV service, which is broadcast to handsets from television towers, offers huge growth potential but is still not without its technical and spectrum challenges, according to Erskine. "The broadcast service has much better picture quality than the streamed service, plus it offers more channels," he said. "We're very interested in it."
The operator, recently acquired by Spain's Telefonica SA, has conducted a DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld) test in the U.K. Participants in the test watched an average 3.5 hours of mobile TV per week, according to Erskine. More than 80 percent of them said they would subscribe to a broadcast mobile TV service, he said.
The move into mobile TV also opens the door for advertising models to finance service, said Jason Hirschhorn, chief digital officer at MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International. "Free is always good for the consumer," he said. "I would love to work with mobile phone operators to create a global standard for mobile phone advertising."
Hirschhorn, who referred to the emerging mobile entertainment market as "the wild west," said MTV isn't interested "in just delivering stuff over mobile phones" but rather in "delivering an experience."
That opinion is shared by Peter Bazalgette, chief creative officer at Endemol NV, a TV production company also owned by Telefonica. Bazalgette urged production companies not to simply cut and paste TV programs to mobile phone formats but rather develop content especially for mobile phones. "There are lots of opportunities to get viewers participating in programs through interactive features," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do to make this all happen."