Analysts hawk 2006 predictions for podcasting

From ABI Research:

Vamsi Sistla, the firm’s director of broadband, digital home and media research, says that we won’t be seeing full-length episodes of hit television shows downloaded to portable devices in 2006. Instead, we’ll have more of what’s available now: “short-form video”. These trailers, promos, and mini-episodes are only a few minutes long. But their brevity, according to Sistla, provides a golden opportunity.

“The mainstream broadcast model is an extraordinarily expensive way to trial new concepts and shows,” he says. “Over 70% of all new shows don’t survive the first season. The logic of trying short versions on emerging platforms at relatively low cost before committing to the expense of hour-long TV productions will soon be apparent to content owners.”

While I agree that full length episodes of existing brands on iPods and PSPs aren’t the ideal viewing experience, the medium isn’t going to be limited to shortform promotional content for 2006 made to feed the big media beast. Instead I look for brand extensions to launch in the podcast space.

Take Fox’s “mobisodes” of 24. These $1 per mini-episode videos were produced for the mobile video market. With the number of video capable mobile phones hovering in the 500,000 to 1,000,000 range, and video capable iPods and PSPs already far exceeding that number, Fox can simply make these mobisodes available as free video podcasts with :15 ads at the head and tail. Using non-union talent and craftspeople (I don’t Kiefer Sutherland in the picture above), and small format video acquisition, Fox can make a nice chunk of change with these. Won’t viewers skip the ads? No. It takes about :15 seconds to get into FF and REW on these devices. People will sit through the ads rather than fiddle with click wheels. The beauty of this model is that it requires virtually no promotion to build audience. 24 fans do a Google search, and up pops the link to the mobisodes.

Of course Sistla’s approach will work eventually, but it doesn’t generate revenue as quickly as brand extension. Big media will milk existing brands in the portable video space before investing in new ones. Even if networks can save money creating cheaper pilot content for download, the results and the buzz will be limited to the tech-savvy, mostly male 14-24 demographic — leaving out a huge (and affluent) chunk of the prime time audience.

Using the portable video space for marketing and buzz generation will be the purview of the independent producer in 2006. Every independent will want to be podcastings first Blair Witch.

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