Sports Critical for 3G Success
By Eric Lin, Thu Jul 08 23:45:00 GMT 2004

There's a reason sports subscriptions, primarily football, are so successful in Europe. They're actually well suited to mobile phones.

Mario Monti, European Commissioner for Competitive Policy spoke at a workshop on new media access to content in Brussels. While outlining the need for new media-specific license and distribution rights to popular content, the Commissioner singled out why sports, and more specifically football, are so important to the success of 3G operators. [link courtesy of Paid Content.]

Monti recognizes that many carriers are starting to create their 3G offerings around content, not technology. Operators want content the create a draw as well as creating additional income to help pay off those expensive 3G licenses. Thanks to pay per view and season subscriptions on cable and satellite networks, users are already accustomed to paying for premium sports content. The Commission's job is to make sure that new media operators get equal access to these properties, some of which provide a single exclusive contract to a TV network alone. Thanks to the Commission's earlier investigations into football broadcast licenses, T-Mobile offered Euro 2004 highlights this Summer, even to 2G users.

Using paid content that's popular on traditional networks to build a strong 3G portfolio makes sense, but not in all cases. One of sports' biggest advantages is that the format of paid sports content actually translates well to a handset's screen and capacity. Sports highlights are short enough to make download quick and the screens are plenty large to watch a little video of Greece scoring the winning goal. Even streaming a whole match isn't out of the question.

Lastly, Monti points out that many fans want access to team or league highlights throughout a season, creating a recurring income and usage for the operator. Many content owners are afraid that new media licenses will decrease their traditional media revenues, and are looking for some sort of assurance that new media licenses will be worth their while. The continual interest generated by season long subscriptions could add up to a critical mass of users that will be able to support the licensing fees content owners will be looking for.

Carriers will, of course, want distribute as much desirable content as possible to be considered an attractive choice. However they cannot just look strictly at what is popular in traditional media. They will also need to evaluate whether or not the content works on, or can be adapted to, 3G handsets.