Category Archives: Mobile Video

FanVision: Fine idea, wrong device

FanVision deviceFootball season is upon us and with come the NFL’s scramble to reach deeper into fans’ wallets. Apparently $200 tickets and $10 beers aren’t enough to keep the lights on at the stadium, so about half the NFL teams have signed up to sell FanVision mobile devices to stadium fans. FanVision (MSRP $259, street price $199) has a 4″ HD-resolution screen and receives video feeds within the stadium confines. Fans can watch the network feed to the game they paid to see live, or out of town games and highlights. From a technology perspective, there’s nothing exciting about FanVision — it’s a mini UHF TV. It receives dedicated low-power channels.

Football is the rare sport that’s more enjoyable to watch live. Seeing the whole field of play allows the spectator to understand precisely how plays unfold — who was open, who missed a block, who was out of position. TV is a closeup medium that follows the ball. Fans have no idea why the play evolved as it did, and it turns out fewer and fewer of the analysts do as well. It’s clear to even the casual fan that the television announcers are watching the line feed in the booth — just like you! That’s why they rarely add any insight.

I digress. Fact is that the average fan prefers the TV experience. It’s easier to have Phil Simms tell you what you just saw than to actually understand what you just saw. Add 50,000 drunks and 30-degree temperatures to a sport that is played rain, snow, or shine, and the owners have a problem filling the $200 seats. For the past two decades they’ve done their best to make football stadiums into giant living rooms with climate control, big screens, and incredible Surround Sound. It works. .500 teams continue to sell out. I have seats to the New England Patriots 10 rows from the field of play, and I never cease to be amazed by the number of people watching the game live on the big screen displays. (The luxury box crowd is a better example of the domestication of the NFL. It appears many of them are completely unaware that the game on the TV is happening just out the window.)

Didn’t I just make the case for FanVision? No, I didn’t. I made the case for in-stadium personal video displays. People already own decent video players — iPhones and iPod Touches, Droid phones, even BlackBerry’s in the game. Who wants yet another device to juggle? A better investment would be to upgrade the WiFi networks (currently only available in the $600 seat sections of Gillette Stadium) and let fans watch on the devices they already own – devices far more sophisticated than a tiny TV, devices with interactive capabilities.  Engadget notes the Seattle Mariners (MLB) took a step in that direction by allowing fans to view replays on a Nintendo DS. Note to owners: Mariners fans can order beer from the DS — a far quicker path to higher margins than FanVision.

A few fun things and a phone from Google

Kudos to Dean Velez for his re-branding of The Anvel to Motion Graphics Lab. Nice site and still lots of free stuff to download. Support Dean’s generous spirit and pay visit.

Sound SnapFrom the “Gosh that guy mentions Steve Audette a lot” department: Steve sends along this helpful link for those looking for sound effects in a hurry. Sound Snap’s a better than expected free sfx sharing site. A lot like the Stock.xchng for stock photos.

Also Steve’s appearing at the next Boston Avid Users Group meeting to talk about his editing heroics at Frontline. If you’re in Boston November 14, never mind. The weather sucks here then. Go somewhere else to catch Steve.

Google to launch phone platform

And I’m overdue for a prediction. As mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, Google’s expected to announce its gPhone initiative in the next few weeks.

“The most likely scenario from a Google perspective is to build some, if you will, inspirational platform [applications]; but primarily focus on getting third parties to do it because that’s where the innovation will come from,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking at the All Things Digital conference in May. He said that “the new model of these phones is going to be person-to-person” with people exchanging videos and other types of data.

Prepare to be underwhelmed. Consumers want a phone and developers want a platform. Spare us the inspiration. And what’s Google going to bring to the table that Microsoft (Windows Mobile), Apple (iPhone), and Nokia (Ovi) don’t already have? This space is crowded already. Google fans retort search was pretty full when Google entered the fray. Search plays to Google’s strength – algorithms. Mobile plays to Google’s weakness – UI design. Note to users: Gmail’s UI sucks.

Google should continue working with mobile platform developers as it has with Apple to get YouTube and Google Maps on the iPhone. Notice how much more usable both are after a nip and tuck at the Cupertino clinic.

Forget the iPhone, unchain the iPod

Dear Mr. Jobs,

If you really want to own the hand-held device market, forget about the iPhone, just add some real functionality to the iPod Touch. As I’ve stated numerous times, I’ll never switch to AT&T, and approximately two-third of Americans are with me on that. Even you can sway us. You see, we still need our phones to make calls.

Just yesterday I was out and about with my iPod and clicked the Safari button to see what would happen. There was a WiFi network available, and that’s becoming more common every day. So why not ditch this phone thing, get in with Google on the bandwidth buying spree and go with VOIP?

Look you don’t play well with others — especially those old-school blue chips. Remember Motorola? You can’t tell me that the AT&T story will end any differently.

So here’s what you do for total hand-held domination:

  • Put an email client on the iPod. Web-based email — excepting .Mac of course — sucks. Everyone hates it.
  • Get Skype working on the iPod. How hard can that be? You’ve done a hell of a job with YouTube. In fact, just buy Skype and make it less dorky. I hear the honeymoon at eBay is over. They’ll part with it.
  • Fix Safari. We can understand why you don’t love Flash, but the rest of the world does.

AT&T web site
Now you have a hand-held device that’s better than the iPhone because AT&T is out of the picture. I mean, look at them, they’re selling refurbished PDAs for $30 next to your lovely iPhone. Mr. Jobs, they are not worthy. Move on before they embarass you further.

Sure, AT&T is going to sue you, but Apple lawyer’s are pretty good in court. And it’s pretty easy to renege on a deal with them. NASCAR screwed them pretty good and got away with it.

I’d make Apple my carrier tomorrow. I bet the other two thirds of Americans might too.

Why mobile video is failing

Picked this up from Fierce Mobile Content:

Wireless communities and consumer services provider BuzzCity says 54 percent of delegates surveyed at the MoCollywood 2007 conference never use the premium mobile content services they market and sell. The survey adds that among the mobile operator, media player, content owner, developer and retailer execs in attendance, 56 percent said they employ mobile web services on a daily basis, but rarely if ever capitalize on mobile TV and music services.

I can’t imagine telling anyone I don’t use my own product. An industry where 54% of its executives shun their own product is surely in trouble. Then why should anyone else? Have these people ever asked themselves why they don’t watch mobile video? A little bit of primary user research on the cheap might go a long way.

TV moves online

Perhaps because I was busy celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day, I missed an interesting On Point on NPR. TV Online not only discussed the trend towards web presentations of broadcast favorites, but also the new web-only properties.

Some key points

  • VCs are throwing gobs of money at big name producers to mimic TV on the web.
  • Everyone knows it’s going to be big, but they’re not quite sure how it’s going to look.
  • Lots of anecdotes about teenagers setting up Apple TV, watching football with laptops, and such – but the Forrester analyst seemed to get it.
  • Advertising models are evolving and look promising.

So yesterday I asked my class of film and television students how many of them watched a good amount of “television” online. Nearly all raised their hands. How many watched video on their mobile phones? None. “I don’t even know anyone who does,” said one student.

One big question for those of us in the content creation business is what tools and what infrastructure will we need to play in this new world? Traditional TV is not going away. We will be re-editing content for multiple distribution channels. Digital asset management and content management is going to be big — not just for the networks, but for independents.

For those of us working primarily on content for broadcast, the implications are going to be huge. It’s possible that broadcast and cable will begin to look more like AM radio than traditional prime time — sooner rather than later — with lots of talk and sports. Everything else migrates towards digital distribution, wagging The Long Tail.

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