Soaps Moving From the Living Room To the Pocket
By Eric Lin, Tue Apr 06 00:00:00 GMT 2004

The race is on to determine what the soap opera of the future will look like. The only thing we know for sure is that it will play out on mobile phones.

Months ago we reported about Jong Zuid, an Dutch soap opera that unfolded over MMS using still images, text and audio clips. Last week News Corp announced they would launch a phone-formatted soap of their own. The dramas of Hotel Franklin will play out over one minute video clips. News Corp claims the length is perfect - it suits the short bits of free time subscribers have during their busy days, it's network friendly, and they can manage to tell a chunk of a story and leave the users wanting more.

Sofia's Diary takes an approach more like that of Big Brother or other reality shows, using the mobile phone as a way to interact instead of a way to watch. Already a hit in Portugal, Sofia's Diary is a multi-modal soap opera experience. We sadly admit it sounds like press release hype, but Beactive, the company responsible for Sofia honestly publish different parts of the "show" in books, newspapers, magazines, a website, on the radio and on TV. Plus users can interact with the show via SMS, WAP and voice calls. After creating a successful media empire for girls in Portugal, Beactive is looking to take Sofia into foreign lands. Netsize will be preparing and translating Sofia for distribution in other languages.

As reality shows like Big Brother and Pop Idol have successfully busted out of the TV set, it makes sense that other genres will make attempts as well. We assume Sofia is so popular because it targets the mobile addicted generation of teenage girls. Jong Zuid also targets the under 25 crowd. News Corp has not given any insight into the storylines of intended audience for Hotel Franklin, but it's likely they too will target young mobile women (and men). It makes sense to focus on these young women, but shows will need to capture a broader audience before mobile programming can be mainstream. That's not to say one program needs to appeal to all audience, but at least a wider variety of programs is needed.