Video Takes a Social Turn on Mobiles


Already hot on the PC Internet, sharing video on wireless devices seems a logical next step

By Susan Murray

Wireless data is skyrocketing, networks are getting speedier and community is gaining traction on mobile handsets. All of these factors are helping video become more of a social experience on the wireless phone, especially from the perspective of mobile video provider Transpera, which is looking to help monetize web videos on mobile phones by working with publishers and carriers.

Frank Barbieri, CEO of Transpera, believes adding the social aspect to the mobile video content offerings is important because, "people don't want to just be entertained, they want to share [content] with their friends." This plays to Transpera's philosophy that mobile video is more than being able to view broadcast TV programs on a handset, it is about interaction and community. Early video experiences on mobile phones simply replicated the cable model where users pay a monthly fee, but Barbieri said Transpera has found that users are more interested in video experiences that are shared or user generated.

Transpera is helping to propel the video movement forward on the BREW platform. Alltel used Transpera technology to bring its Alltel Social Video service to its customer base. The application goes beyond just video playback, by enabling users to create share groups and make use of address book integration capabilities. Users also have the option to rate and review videos. "The Transpera platform that Alltel Wireless chose to use for its social video application will provide its customers with seamless video and advertising delivery, while connecting them to the entertaining and social world of online video," Barbieri said.

While the emergence of the iPhone has helped propel video usage on handsets and Barbieri has seen an explosion of growth on WAP, he said BREW can offer users a new level of sophistication. "There is a willingness to drive capabilities for video on the BREW deck," he said. Wireless industry analyst Jeff Kagan agreed, saying BREW is a compelling offer. "It is a great middleware that links technologies," he said.

Adding video or a social aspect to mobile content makes sense to Kagan. "It has only been a few years since [social video] started exploding [on the PC]...and it has become very successful with users. The next step is always to the mobile device," said Kagan, who notes that the success on mobile however depends on how well it is marketed and on the experience of the people running the companies pushing the technology.

The Carrier Perspective

Carriers should wrap their arms around social video for mobiles because it offers them a way to capture young consumers. The 16 to 24-year old set of consumers, which Barbieri called "Mobile Primaries," are highly invested in their mobile phone and are looking to new phones to satisfy them -- it doesn't matter to them where the content originates. To prove his point, Barbieri referred to an ABI Research study showing how mobile consumers are willing to get their content from various sources. The "Mobile Content Survey Results" report found that of the 14 percent of survey participants that watch video content on their mobile device, were divided about even as to where they acquired video content: 35 percent from YouTube; 31 percent directly from the carrier's content suite; and 28 percent from side-loading content. Carriers, according to this study, can benefit by opening up their networks and pushing farther into ad-supported content delivery.

Video Keeps Rolling

Barbieri believes we are just at the tipping point when it comes to video on mobile phones, noting that there will be a strong correlation between 3G penetration and video usage uptake. "If you look at the penetration of 3G-capable handsets, we are at about 30 percent in North America; broadband households was at 30 percent in 2005, which was a tipping point for [broadband]," he said. "We are at a tipping point for mobile."

Musing about the possibility of success for adding a social aspect to video offered on mobile devices, Kagan asserted, "Obviously it is going to be hot ... it is part of the wireless experience that is brand new, but it will be limited to a segment of the marketplace who like the Internet."