Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is McDreamy As Dreamy On A Tiny Screen?

The New York Times had an interesting story on Sunday about ESPN's plans for creating contest for cellphones.

ESPN has a vision. The company believes cellphones and other mobile devices "are natural platforms for its content. Consumers waiting in line, riding a bus or sitting in a cafeteria will use their phones to watch sports commentary or to check scores just as often as they glance at their wristwatches."

There are skeptics who question whether anyone will be interested in watching videos on a tiny cell screen. Of the auxiliary services offered by cellphones, the most popular is text messaging. Only 7% of those who use their phones for more than calling watch videos.

ESPN has had some bumps on their path to developing a cellphone business. After introducing an expensive cellphone and service for sports fans, they shut the business down in less than a year for lack of interest. Now they are developing short videos that sports fans can watch during spare moments during the day.

And, the venture seems to be working. More than nine million fans visit ESPN's cellphone site each month.

According to The Times, ESPN isn't alone in their vision. CBS, MTV, the Associated Press and the Hearst Corporation are all investing in original cellphone content.

ABC is showing hour-long episodes of "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" via the Sprint cellphone network.

Esquire, a Hearst Corporation men's magazine, has created a cellphone site that lists the best bars in America.

And, the market is still waiting to see the impact Apple's new iPhone will have on consumer behavior. Will the iPhone change the way people use their cellphones?

The article points out that "Underlying the interest in cellphones as the Next Big Media Platform is a generation gap: younger people use cellphones more than their baby-boomer parents do--and for a lot more than chatting. More than three-quarters of 18- to 26-year-olds use some type of data services--compared with 44 percent of the general population--and their time spent messaging, downloading content, watching video and surfing around the mobile slipstream is also higher."

ESPN is counting on these young people as the customers of the future. One executive said, "People are more mobile. They commute more, they travel more, they are out of the house. They are going to want mobile content."

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