With the recent launch of the iPhone and other smartphones, mobile video delivery is receiving much greater attention. Though still lagging the widespread popularity of broadband-delivered video, mobile video is getting a boost today as MTV, Discovery, AccuWeather, Travel Channel and Next New Networks have all announced new initiatives, to be powered by Transpera, a mobile video services platform.
Mobile has long been an alluring opportunity, but to date most of the activity has been from wireless carriers or their partners' efforts. These so-called "on deck" video offerings were largely subscription-based (Verizon's VCast, MobiTV, etc.) and available on only a minority of all handsets. The limited, carrier-controlled nature of traditional mobile video has been a key differentiator from the open broadband video world.
Further, as Greg Clayman, MTV's EVP of Digital Business Development explained to me on Friday, neither the tools for content providers to manage, publish and monetize mobile video nor the network capacity for delivering mobile video have been in place until recently.
Transpera is one of a number of companies addressing the mobile video opportunity (see also my recent post on upstart Azuki Systems and also another player called Vantrix). I spoke to Transpera's CEO and co-founder Frank Barbieri a few weeks ago, and he noted that given how nascent the mobile video space is, the company is today providing both a full technology platform to content providers and ad sales capabilities. I pointed out that in broadband that integration of technology and ad sales had been tried (most notably by Brightcove), but largely been dropped. Today there is a clear bifurcation in the broadband ecosystem between technology platforms and ad sales networks.
Frank sees the same thing happening in mobile video (in fact, we agreed that comparisons to broadband's development are useful in thinking about how mobile video delivery will shape up). Transpera's longer-term goal is to be a full-fledged mobile ad sales network, so its management/publishing/delivery platform is more of a means to that end. Frank sees Transpera already providing real monetization value to many of its customers; the company has strong reach into media buyers and agencies and credibility in selling this new medium's benefits (it should be noted however that MTV, for one, continues to retain its mobile video ad inventory to sell itself).
With its focus on building out a mobile video ad network, my guess is that eventually Transpera will see competition from today's broadband ad networks, who are arguably well-positioned to play in the mobile space as consumption surges.
For now though, given how early it is in mobile video's evolution, the key is building trial and usage. For many content providers mobile video is brand new and the ROI unproven. Though they've likely maintained so-called WAP sites for mobile browsers, video is a whole new ball game. Driving video consumption and legitimizing the mobile medium - as has happened with broadband - is job #1 for all the players in this exciting new space.
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