Nokia Takes Series 60 Out to the Ballgame
By Eric Lin, Wed Aug 04 00:45:00 GMT 2004

Major League Baseball will provide content for a subscription service available to some Nokia smartphones in the US.

Nokia has announced a deal with Major League Baseball Advanced Media for live audio streams, video highlights, photos and other content for the duration of the 2004 season. Currently only T-mobile subscribers with a Nokia 6600 can access the content because it requires the Nokia Sports application, which only runs on Series 60 version 2. However the application should be available to subscribers on Cingular and AT&T Wireless in a few days, once the 6620 is released. The Nokia Sports application is the same program used to view NBA highlights as well.

The MLB content will cost $8 per month, and although sign-up is through Nokia, billing will be handled by the carriers. MLB Advanced Media has also said their payment is a revenue sharing agreement, which probably accounts for more than half of each $8 monthly subscription, considering the high value placed on sports content. Once the operators take their cut as well, that doesn't leave much revenue for Nokia.

If Nokia didn't make this deal to generate revenue from the lucrative sports content market, why would it do so? It is especially unusual considering the recent trend for carriers or content aggregators, not handset manufacturers, to make content deals. At first glance this appears to be yet another attempt by a handset manufacturer to wrestle ownership of customers away from a the operators. However the operators are the ones billing subscribers, and they will also reap benefits from data charges since Nokia Sports is a connected application. Instead of trying to own the customer, Nokia has followed an i-mode-like manner of sharing the customer and as with i-mode, everyone seems to benefit. MLB will receive a large portion of the subscription fee. The carriers will receive a cut as well as generating additional data revenue. More important than Nokia's cut of the subscription fees is the additional higher-margin smartphones it will sell thanks to the semi-exclusive content. (MLB Audio streams are also available to Sprint subscribers through MobiTV.)

One content deal (or two) for one smartphone platform does not signal a shift from the traditional application ecosystem that OS makers have long pitched to the content-based one that Colly Myers has predicted. However it is still likely that should Nokia's sports content prove successful, other manufacturers or OS platforms will follow Nokia into the fray, arranging content deals for their handsets in hopes of creating additional demand.