TV Guide’s Bob Shallow on the Evolution of Mobile Video

As the Web video craze continues to escalate, the market for this content is evolving. Advertisers are trying to cash in on clips by both amateurs and production companies; new Web sites catering to the trend are popping up; and video is gaining in popularity on additional platforms, notably mobile.

Accordingly, wireless carriers, handset makers and content providers are all racing to keep up with the high expectations of savvy consumers who crave more mobile video — and now.

Television industry vet TV Guide has jumped on the mobile video bandwagon, displaying its television listings, reviews and news on wireless devices.

The E-Commerce Times spoke with Bob Shallow, vice president and general manager of Gemstar-TV Guide International’s mobile entertainment group, at the recentDigital Hollywood conference about the state of this new market, his company’s efforts in the arena, and his predictions for the future of mobile video.

E-Commerce Times: The panel you spoke on at Digital Hollywood was called “The Rush to Mobile Video: The Creation of a Revolutionary Entertainment and Communications Medium.” What’s your take on this so-called rush?

Bob Shallow:

The genie’s out of the bottle with video. So, it’s available now on handsets. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether there’s consumer pull for it or whether it’s being forced. The fact is, it’s just a natural progression. Video’s becoming a prominent means of communication, and so it’s a pretty natural evolution that it’s available ubiquitously across platforms, across devices.

Now that people are starting to become aware that it’s available, people will start to expect that it’s there. So, it’s not so much a “tug” as it is an evolution … and it sort of becomes a baseline feature.

Where it gets a little bit tricky is when you factor in the mobile operator business model, given that they are such a controlled, walled garden and they are trying to — similar to the way the early Internet portals tried to control the consumer experience — control the same kind of experience.

My feeling, however, is that over time, the bandwidth becomes somewhat of a commodity and less of a factor in the whole cost side of the equation. So, when those operators want to differentiate themselves, it’s all going to be about delivering the best experience to the consumer, and they’re going to provide the consumer choice, or at least access.

I think what you’ll see is that the Internet model prevails, and mobile simply becomes an Internet access device, with high-speed connections through various service providers.

E-Commerce Times: Why was it essential for you to attend the Digital Hollywood conference?


What we’re trying to do at a conference like this is educate people around the value of guidance. In this environment — given the nature of the devices and the inherent limitations of the devices, particularly in relation to what you can do currently on a PC or TV — you really need a highly optimized experience..

We provide a robust metadata infrastructure. We’ve amassed a library of program titles — basically, every program that’s aired on television dating back to the advent of TV, and film dating back to 1910. We have a tremendous database, and we’ve really learned how to optimize that for the delivery of this information into a guidance experience on various platforms.

We also have developed a range of TV Guide services. So, when you think of an on-screen guide, it is actually made up of a variety of parts, and those parts are your basic listings, your program information, plus enhanced features like the ability to set reminders, set recordings, parental controls, user profiles. We’ve created all of these guidance services, and we’ve really continued to innovate a lot around those services. That’s really important these days when you think about the emerging paradigm in terms of how people are consuming media.

We’re trying to figure out how to provide the best user experience so a consumer could go out to various platforms and pull media into a common user experience and — very simply, with very few clicks — get from one piece of content that might be housed over here to another piece of content over here. Or, once they set up a profile once, have it reflected on various platforms so it’s easy to move within their various content environments and still have the best experience.

E-Commerce Times: What is the history of the TV Guide mobile division?


TV Guide created its mobile division a little over a year ago. It was created because the company saw a huge opportunity in mobile.

If you think about mobile TV deployments, the economics are really based on a per-handset basis. Compare that to television, which is based on a per-household basis. The number of handsets versus the number of households is significantly different, and similarly — whether it’s handsets or subscribers — it still equates to individuals versus households.

Separate from that, we’re a media company as well, and so mobile is a key platform to get your distributed media content these days. So we take all of the assets that are created for TV Guide magazine, TV Guide Online, TV Guide Network, and we package it for distribution through mobile.

E-Commerce Times: What’s your most popular product?


In our media products, it’s a combination of listings, programming information and news. I would say the most popular aspect right now is the listings. We are to television information what the Weather Channel is to the weather. So, in a lot of ways, we are a utility kind of service.

People come to us because they want to find out what’s on. The way we differentiate our media position from a lot of others that are thrown into the entertainment category is, we’re really focused on providing television information. We’re not out there covering the salacious bits of gossip.

We distribute a package of video clips that’s produced by TV Guide Network and then adapted for TV Guide Mobile, and those programs relate to celebrity interviews on a particular series. We do a lot of coverage, for example, around major TV events — season premieres, previews of the upcoming season, cliffhangers, season finales, holiday. So, we package together a range of these different TV events. And then during summers, we do a lot of movie blockbusters and award seasons programming.

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