No Taming This Shrew


Hollywood Loves Mobile Video

With many video clips floating around the Web, like the 12 one-minute episodes of Borat, the mobile video is becoming increasingly popular among the consumers. However, advertisers seem too prudent, giving the film studios problems with monetization.

Another example of the successful mobile video is Warner Brothers' six-episode series based on the popular Superman television show "Smallville." Fox also experimented with the mobile version of the popular "Prison Break" series. Both projects had hard time monetizing the work involved, with Sprint and Toyota being the only sponsors (Sprint advertised on "Smallville", while Toyota supported "Prison Break").

Mobile advertising is still in its infancy. eMarketer reported that around $421 million was spent to reach the mobile phone users last year. By contrast, broadcast TV advertising was estimated at $48 billion in 2006, according to the Universal McCann media agency. Add to that that only about 5 million users are watching the videos on their handsets, a small fraction of the 195 million mobile phone subscribers nationwide, and you'll have the complete picture.

While companies are still not that eager to advertise in the new media, film studios are continuing to experiment, but suggest that predicted explosive growth is still some time away. The upcoming Apple iPhone may be the light at the end of the tunnel for Hollywood. Its 3.5" touchscreen may provide users with a needed comfort for watching the mobile video...

In the summer of 2006, Sony created behind-the-scenes vignettes from the FX series “Rescue Me,” which were offered in three-minute installments on cellphones in-between the weekly television shows.

“We were trying to leverage the production,” said Mike Arrieta, executive vice president of digital distribution and mobile entertainment for Sony, adding that they had their own team on the set for filming.

Where studios could get into trouble, though, is if mobile phone episodes like these are viewed less as promotional material and more as pure entertainment. Unionized actors, directors and writers have already balked at creating videos and other material for the Web, saying they should be paid for the extra work. (Unionized workers are not paid extra to create promotional materials.)

One way to get around the situation is by creating animated episodes or hiring look-alike actresses instead. That is what Fox did early on. But the issue is expected to be a sticking point in the planned talks with the unions. Some unions are already monitoring how much advertising revenue studios are making.

Not surprising, studios are bracing for tough negotiations.

“I think everyone is trying to figure it out and decide how to deal with it,” said Zack Van Amburg, a co-president with Mr. Erlicht at Sony Pictures Television. “For now we are all in a ‘Let’s embrace it and it’s here’ mode. No one has the answer yet.”
The full article titled "Hollywood Loves the Tiny Screen. Advertisers Don't." is available on The New York Times' site.

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