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Discovery is the greatest challenge on mobile: Sameer Pitalwalla

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Discovery is the greatest challenge on mobile: Sameer Pitalwalla

Most experts agree that the increasing adoption by users of data driven mobile connections using 3G networks is going to be driven by entertainment content, whether videos or online games. Such content is becoming readily available thanks to brands like UTV Interactive, whose two main focus areas for growth in 2011 are on their celebrity business and their mobile content, according to Sameer Pitalwalla, Senior Vice President, UTV Interactive and Business Head Video Products.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Pitalwalla shared his views about the way mobile content is being shaped to appeal to audiences more efficiently than before. Speaking about the growing numbers of users, Pitalwalla said, “Today, there is a rising tide which lifts all boats. More people are using mobile now, but what we see is more of the same. It’s a predominantly male audience which we have been studying very deeply to understand what content works for them. There are new people, but the demographics have not changed much.”

While he believes that 3G is going to have an impact in the amount of video content consumed on mobile devices, as of now, he agreed that the numbers are too small and the service too new to make any long term predictions, but added that the basic demographics and uses are not going to be greatly affected by 3G technology.

He added, “We have never had high expectations about 3G changing consumption in the immediate time frame. These things rarely happen over a couple of months, and will take time to ramp up. However, we are seeing a ramp in new services launching. We are also creating new services to meet new needs, because the people who are now experimenting with your service will become your regular users. Right now though, it’s more about a preview, a teaser, while the operator’s fine tune the network.”

UTV’s focus is on two pronged content development. While Pitalwalla could not reveal too many details of the work UTV is doing because it is tied to their strategic goals, he said, “Our core strategy is our mobile business and our mobile video content. We are investing heavily in these, and we are already the leader for managing celebrity presence online and are moving towards being the leader in mobile from the content perspective.”

He added, “We have done extensive research to create content for the mobile users. There is something to be said for putting your existing offline content online – editing it creatively and scaling it so that mobile users get value out of it. That is the aggregation space and there are two clearing houses we can solicit content from there – TV and movies. But we are also looking to create content for the medium, that is backed by research and data on the audience and the medium. It’s not just about making a film and releasing it only on mobile. There is a lot of science going in to make it unique to the medium, because otherwise there’s no value being offered.”

He also said that new devices, like the iPad, are having no significant impact on the planning at UTV Interactive, just like new technology like 3G. He said, “The usage pattern which was there on mobile web is the same as on the web on tablets. They fall between mobile and PC, but the consumption pattern is very much like that on mobile. It’s content you will want to consume on the go, or on your handset instead of the television. So the planning for one holds true for the other.”

Promoting of the content is a big issue, and one which can’t really be handled through direct marketing, Pitalwalla said. He said, “A large part of it is working with operators. That’s the network that people consume the content from. Creating conversation about the brand is good when you reach critical mass, but right now, the brand is the content, not the destination.”

He added, “The biggest challenge today is discovery. There are a whole lot of services within and without video, all in competition. Video is in competition with text, images and voice all at once, and these are all well understood, mature services. We need to carve a share out of these buckets for video. Being on the top of the hierarchy of these needs is the key.”


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