Go Beyond Broadcast
By Carlo Longino, Thu May 19 17:00:00 GMT 2005

Every day brings news of another mobile video launch. But it's already time to transcend the broadcast model and make things a bit more interesting.

Each morning this week has seen mobile video in the news: an early analysis of South Korea's DMB broadcasts, a "free" streaming video service, an operator pushing video ads and so on. Also this week has been news that Telia in Sweden and Orange in the UK will stream TV channels over their networks, while Vodafone UK will broadcast Big Brother footage live around the clock, following a similar, successful move by 3 in Australia.

But all of these services use the traditional broadcast model: they all simply stream TV footage over mobile networks (or use a dedicated satellite network, in the case of DMB), and expect users to participate in the same way as traditional television, by just passively consuming whatever's pushed at them. There are some niche applications where live television makes sense and will be successful (such as news updates and sports events), but the mobile platform allows for so much more, creating opportunities for video content that let users be more than just passive consumers.

Endemol, the maker of Big Brother, is looking to develop some applications like this. The company has a history of creating all sorts of mobile content around its TV shows, as well as mobile-specific content like MMS soap operas, but is looking to create new, interactive video-based content.

The first app the company has devised sounds a bit like a mobile video version of the Rock & Roll Traveler guidebook, where users could call up location-specific video at places with historical significance to music. For instance, if somebody was on Abbey Road in London, they could call up footage about the Abbey Road studios the Beatles made famous, or the crosswalk from the album cover of the same name. Certainly it's nothing earth-shaking, but it's a first step down what could be a very cool road.

While live TV on a mobile might be good for an initial "wow", it's only going to get really interesting once content providers and developers transcend the initial capability of mobile devices to simply receive the video sent to them. All About Mobile Life reports on a couple of things HP researchers are working on with cameraphones that illustrate this idea of digging deeper, past the simple low-level capabilities of mobile devices to make something greater by creating a couple of services to enable the devices not just as poor-quality cameras, but rather as storytelling devices. Making it easy to add audio to tell a story that can be easily shared can make what would otherwise be boring vacation photos or something a bit more compelling.

Repurposed TV broadcasts hopefully represent just the starting point for mobile video. Mobile networks allow for much more than just pushing TV shows down to handsets; entertaining users will require actively engaging them as well.