MobiTV to Sell Video Ads on Cell Phones

MobiTV has launched a platform to sell advertising into its service, which streams live TV to mobile phones.

Advertisers will be able to repurpose TV spots to insert into the “local avail” advertising segments in the network’s video feed, where local affiliates are free to replace the national ads with their own ads for that market. MobiTV is also developing branded entertainment channels, and is exploring long-format “infomercials” and direct response capabilities.

“Because we carry a lot of live TV programming, there has already been advertising there. What we’re doing now is giving advertisers a way to reach customers on cell phones specifically,” Dave Whetstone, MobiTV’s chief marketing officer, told ClickZ News.

The first advertisers on the platform are Jeep and Axe, which are already showing repurposed TV spots. Jeep has also aggregated its “Meet the Mudds” videos for the Jeep Commander into a Jeep-branded channel on MobiTV’s service.

“We believe that providing more tailored advertising to the mobile consumer is good for our customers and good for the brands trying to reach them,” Whetstone said. “The flexibility of our platform enables our advertisers to create compelling and entertaining ways to reach their customers, while keeping a great consumer experience at the forefront.”

The market for video ads on cell phones is very small, with MobiTV off to an early lead, according to Julie Ask, a research director at JupiterResearch. Advertisers are testing out a variety of format on cell phones, including sweepstakes, voting, SMS campaigns, banner ads, TV ads on video, product placement in video games, and ringtone jingles, Ask said.

“No one is really sharing stats, but marketers are happy with most of their endeavors/experiments so far. I think we will see ad-supported video going forward,” Ask said.

While Whetstone expects ads to initially consist almost entirely of repurposed TV spots, eventually advertisers will begin creating “made for mobile” ads once the market matures. He suggests keeping in mind the limitations of phones’ 2-inch screen, and targeting ads toward a younger demographic.

An April 2005 JupiterResearch report found that less than half of cell phone users surveyed would be interested in watching any kind of video on their cell phone, and even fewer would be willing to pay for it. Of the 1,100 respondents, 44 percent said they would be interested in video at all, and only 19 percent said they’d consider paying for a video service. Of those that would be interested, 25 percent said they would watch 30-minute live TV shows, and 21 percent would watch 60-minute live TV shows. Only 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively, would pay for those same services.

MobiTV has 500,000 subscribers for its live TV and content subscription services, which Whetstone describes as a “cable TV network for mobile phones.” It offers TV content from NBC, ABC and Fox, ESPN, Major League Baseball, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, The Weather Channel, along with country-specific channels outside the United States. The service is available in the U.S. through Sprint, Cingular, Alltel and several regional carriers; in the United Kingdom through Orange UK; and is in Canada through Rogers, Bell Mobility and Telus.

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