The mobile TV and movie market has picked up more speed this year than ever before, thanks mostly to quickening network speeds and improving handset quality. We spoke to Tina Kaichis, Director Marketing Communications & Partner Marketing at mobile video/TV company QuickPlay, to find out where the company is now, and what it sees as the future of mobile TV.
The last time I spoke to QuickPlay was almost two years ago at Mobile World Congress. A lot has changed in those two years – parts of the mobile industry are almost urecognisable. What have been the biggest changes for you in that time?
Since then… we’ve signed a large number of customers. We’ve expanded beyond smartphones to a full, multi-screen experience. Mobile video on smartphones is where the company got it start, but we’ve realized in that time that the number of devices capable of running our service has expanded. So we’ve expanded our service as well, so we have multi-screen TV and multi-screen movies.
The movie offering is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, we’ve signed a deal with Deluxe Entertainment Group which allows us to provide major new releases in the US. It’s great having that full content library, along with a fully customizable storefront. We are very comfortable being the software platform, and working behind the scenes.
When you say “major movie releases” are you talking about blockbusters from major studios?
Yes – when the DVD is released after the cinema run has finished, we can make the movie available. As soon as the DVD hits the shops, the movie becomes available through whatever branded QuickPlay portal you’re using.
Does QuickPlay do any self-branded work, or is it all white-label?
Chances are it will be branded something else. If people want to put our label on it, that’s fine with us! The idea behind it is that the brand has a completely customized storefront, with your branding. You have integrated billing systems, and an integrated digital locker – which ensures that all content is fully secure, and is compatible with all relevant DRM systems. Then you’d have your different payment choices, depending on what the operator wants: subscription, pay-per-view, etc.
You’ve mentioned multi-screen, and customizable storefronts. What kind of devices will that run on? Are we talking mobile app and web, or can a digital TV host the service?
Right now we’re primarily focusing on the mobile operator segment. We certainly could do a custom storefront for TV service providers. One good example of that is the AT&T U-verse Mobile offering which launched this summer. It’s completely white-labelled, we’ve integrated with their electronic programming guide and billing system. What we can do with that is make select shows available for download through our service.
AT&T actually did their own deals for the content provided through our QuickPlay platform, but we’ve also got PrimeTime2Go. It’s a mobile DVR for your smartphone. It’s our only direct-to-consumer brand, and for that we have deals with the major TV services like NBC, CBS, etc. It’s a $9.99 service that gives you unlimited downloads a month, for certain Motorola Androids and Blackberry. You can download, or set your device to automatically download shows within a day of broadcast. And for that service we have direct deals with the content providers.
As for screens, our focus is first on the smartphones, PCs and consumer electronics devices. We do want to work with cable TV providers, but not on the actual set top boxes as of yet.
If people have unlimited downloads or live-streams to their device of entire movies, that’s going to be a big burden on operator data channels. Have you found operator capabilities to be a limiting factor?
Some are of more concern than others! So we’ve always provided options. If the operator would like to do it over the network, that’s great, and we can certainly offer some limits over that. But we also provide options to shift content over Wi-Fi. We just try to stay as flexible as possible.
There have been discussions about creating a dedicated spectrum for mobile TV (see our report). Do you think that’s likely?
With any type of dedicated channel, there’s a cost associated with that. Where people are willing to pay, there’s a case to be made. But as you see companies moving to LTE, you’ll see much more bandwidth becoming available. Also, WiFi is becoming more and more widespread. So I think you could suggest there’s a case to do that, but it would need to have an incredibly strong revenue case to justify the expense.
What kind of other deals do you have in the pipeline?
We’ve got some very interesting announcements coming out of Asia next month – unfortunately we can’t talk about it in detail yet! But there’s a large content provider we’ve got a deal with, and there are certainly discussions in both the US and Europe – often thanks to interest in the deal we’ve provided AT&T.
The mobile TV landscape has changed massively in the last year. What do you think the market changes will be in the next year?
You’re going to continue to see smartphones, you’re going to continue to see accelerating bandwidth. But honestly, I think the biggest challenge will be for the content providers to sort out the rights issues. To a great extent you have a lot of mobile rights already available – however, the iPad changed everything. It changed how people view mobile content, but it also changed how mobile content providers are looking at rights. It made things very complex. They had a different set of rights for PCs and mobile… but where does the iPad fit in? So in some cases, content providers have held off thanks to that very confusion. So there’s a balancing act for content providers to be done between maximizing revenue, and protecting their content. I think that’ll be the biggest thing in the next year. You’ll have more devices and more content, but the interesting thing will be the dialogue around the rights.