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Television-enabled mobile phones – an alternative media in the making

29-September-2004
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Television-enabled mobile phones – an alternative media in the making

First, a pocket calculator, then a mini radio, an internet guide, not to mention, an inbuilt camera and now, believe it or not, mobile phones are coming up encompassing a television. Orange TV is now available on Edge-compatible handsets like Nokia 6230, 3220 and 630, which enable users to view television with a surfing range of 13-odd channels. Previews and recaps from popular soaps and serials like ‘Jassi’, ‘Yeh Meri Life Hai’, ‘Astitiva’, ‘Reth’ in addition to national and international headlines from CNBC-TV 18, NDTV 24×7 and NDTV India – all are there in your mobile phones. Viewers can access fashion and lifestyle browsing through Trendz, have a glimpse at cartoon strips from Nick and enjoy Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati clips from ETV Network, Raj TV, etc.

“Equipped with higher speeds of an Edge-enabled network, we can deliver video clips of a longer duration,” claims Harit Nagpal, VP, Marketing, Orange. “If you are an existing subscriber to HutchWorld, Orange TV comes to you with no extra subscription. As a subscriber is already shelling out Rs 99 for HutchWorld, it doesn’t make sense to charge anything extra for this service,” he adds.

However, in case a person is not an existing subscriber to HutchWorld, he or she needs to send ACT HW as an SMS to 111 while prepaid customers can SMS ‘ACT HW’ to 144. With EDGE, consumers can enjoy much faster download speeds, not just for TV clips but also for ring tones, games, wallpapers, logos and much more. “This service is what you would ideally call cutting-edge technology, and we plan to extend it to more models besides Nokia 6230, 3220 and 630,” Nagpal says.

Would subscribers be able to access commercials via their cell phones? Nagpal asserts, “The way it works, subscribers have to download a certain clip, and the clip in question is devoid of commercials. So at present, Orange TV cannot be used as a media vehicle of any kind. Previously, we used to offer clips on the Miss Universe pageant and certain film trailers – it was just that the clip was manoeuvred to give you more footage. Now, it can be used for much larger segments like an entire news story. But it’s certainly not malleable enough to host television commercials. Perhaps in the near future we could be offering a platform of the kind.”

But isn’t Orange TV open to promos of television channels? “Special promos on AXN, Max, Animax and Discovery are available, but these are more like add-ons pertaining to specific shows on these channels, and they come along with the clip. It’s not so much as a commercial pertaining to a channel, as much as added information about a particular show and a very short one at that,” explains Nagpal.

However, the company is also trying to bring in more Edge-enabled handsets in the country. Edge, when expanded Enhanced Data rate for Global Evolution, is a higher-end technology and enables better customer service.

Meanwhile, this development could work its way to a marketer’s media plan, if aided with the right technology and infrastructure. On an international platform, O2 and NTL have joined forces to test the feasibility of watching TV over mobile phones. Five hundred O2 customers in Oxford will be treated to 16 different TV channels with the usual mix including soaps, sports and music. There will also be 'specialist channels' available, with shopping and gaming. Mobile TV in fact provides a new channel for existing media and brand players, who are seeking additional potential revenues, as was acknowledged by Terry Howard, head of media business development, NTL's broadcast.

In India’s case, Orange TV doesn’t quite offer any opportunities of the kind, for marketers in the current day. But down the road ahead, television-enabled mobile phones could work as a great medium for brand custodians, and it would actually add a whole new dimension to the phase ‘Anytime. Anywhere.’

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