How Mobile Content Can Make Other Things More Valuable
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jun 10 21:30:00 GMT 2005

The movie industry has been struggling in some places, but a couple of cinema companies in the UK are hoping that mobile content can renew interest not just in movies -- but in going to the movies.

Here are two industry trying to figure out "what's next?" For the movie industry, the last few years have been quite a shift, as the competition for both time and money has become a lot more heated. However, rather than trying to change with the times, many in the movie industry have been fighting against the tide. While DVD and video rentals and sales have been a big boost, the industry still prides itself on the number of people who actually go out to the theater. However, the movie going experience hasn't been quite as enjoyable lately for many people. The prices keep increasing, the theaters seem more crowded, the seats are uncomfortable, the floor is sticky and people are talking to each other or on mobile phones during the movies. At the same time, people have found they can set up a home theater for a decent price, or they might just prefer surfing the web or playing a video game to going out to the movies. Instead of recognizing that the movie industry needs to improve the experience of going to the movies by making it more enjoyable and worthwhile, many in the industry have taken the cheap way out and blamed file sharing on the Internet for people not wanting to see movies. This has always seemed like a stretch, as the social experience of going to a movie with a bunch of friends and watching the action on a huge screen with a great sound system didn't seem like much competition for sitting at home at your desk, watching a tiny, poorly recorded, movie on your computer screen.

For the mobile content industry, the question is more about where can it go from here? The space is still young and fairly immature -- with some of the bigger success stories being accidents. Ringtones have driven the industry, but the ringtone business faces a number of challenges. Mobile games appear to be a popular topic last month, but there are some questions about how much money is really there.

However, by teaming up, the two industries might find some interesting possibilities. The simple thinking would just be to offer movie content on mobile phones -- mainly things like movie trailers. This has been done, and isn't too exciting. Sure, some people may be interested in watching it on such a tiny screen, but it's hardly the type of thing that will make people want to run out and update their phone to sign up for additional services. Plus, it seems unlikely to really drive too many more people to the theater. Instead, two UK theater chains are trying to entice people to actually attend movie showings by offering them free mobile content for making it to the theater.

This offering has a lot of advantages for both industries. For the movie industry, it's something different and interesting to offer, that lets people understand another reason why going out to the theater may be better than some other options -- including just watching a DVD at home. For the mobile content industry, it's a targeted marketing opportunity, to get the right types of content to the right types of people -- and showing them how useful and enjoyable mobile content can be. Of course, implementation is everything. If the content is seen as useless or (much, much worse) annoying -- then the whole plan is actually a negative. Instead, if it engages movie goers, allowing them to extend the social life of the movie by discussing it or finding out additional info and giving movie goers access to free or discounted tickets for future showing (or the DVD when it comes out) it could help everyone out. Theaters will get more patrons, mobile operators and mobile content creators get more people using their content and movie goers get a more complete experience.

The big realization in all of this, however, is how the two things help each other out. The mobile content, on its own, may not be that valuable. But in conjunction with the movie that people just saw -- it could make their experience much better. When mobile content is viewed as a way to enhance another service, rather than as a separate product on its own, the range of possibilities (and the likely audience) expands greatly.