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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

At the Just for Pitching event, the Comedy Central guy mentioned that they're looking for 2-minute segments suitable for viewing on a cell phone or iPod's two inch screen, to release as "mobile content."

I've been hearing about mobile content for several years now. I wasted a bit of time with a producer who wanted an animated series of 90 second cartoons; it turned out that he didn't actually envision paying anyone until (or if) he sold the show somewhere. Since then other producers have asked if I'd like to "partner up" with them, i.e. I come up with a series concept and write a few short scripts for free, and then they'll see if anyone's interested. No one has explained to me yet where the payday is, though they're all convinced there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The only success story I can point to is Têtes à Claques, the web-based Québecois animation phenomenon: if you're a Bell cell phone subscriber you can watch the episodes on your cell phone a week before they come out on the Web. But that was a phenomenon before Bell bought in.

Mobisodes are a fundamentally new medium. The screen is ridiculously small. You can really only have one thing in a frame that size. If you're having an explosion, the explosion fills the frame. If you're having a conversation, it's all closeups, no wide shot. How does that affect the kind of stories you can tell?

But it's not just the size of the frame.

The audience is also downloading whenever the episode is ready. Should that be on a regular or an irregular basis?

Do all episodes have to be the same length? Why should they be?

But my big question gets back to: how do I get paid? How do the actors get paid? Am I paid per download? Or is the platform (the cell phone service provider, or iTunes) producing a lot of content that they're paying for up front, and everyone's paid a reasonable advance against royalties? Or do they buy the show outright?

And how do you get paid for providing mobisode content when YouTube is giving content away for free? Or as Sam Goldwyn once said about B movies, why would people pay to see bad movies in a theater when they can watch bad movies on TV for free?

It's the Wild West out there. But has anyone struck silver yet?

Does anyone have more info on successful mobisode productions?

UPDATE: See Bill Cunningham's comment for links to two articles about downloadable content. Japanese kids are buying manga to read on their handsets, which is a big step forward in e-book technology. (The concept of spraying ink on paper, and then physically shipping it to someone who will read it once and then throw it away seems so, well, 20th Century.) And 24 has a sideline series of 24 one-minute episodes.

Note that manga-by-email is not a new medium -- it's just a new method of delivering the old medium of the graphic novel. Meanwhile the 24 mobisodes are a promotional item for the series. They're not making money off them directly; and even if they were charging for downloads, the mobisodes rely on the enormous promotional boost of the hot TV series. I'm still waiting to hear about a series that was created for, and paid for by, the mobile screen.

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By Blogger Cunningham, at 2:00 PM  

Mobile Content's always confused me. I don't understand why people would want to watch something on their tiny little cell phone screen...

I think producer's might be putting the cart in front of the horse a bit when it comes to mobisodes as well. We're still struggling to figure out the revenue streams for web distribution, let alone content specifically for handhelds.

I'm still hoping that Sanctuary takes off (more than it already has) and proves that there is a market for web based, pay-per-download content. But until they release some financials (or something similar) there's really no way to know...

It'll also be interesting to see what the end result of the WGA negotiations are going to be in regards to new media...

By Blogger Peter, at 2:49 PM  

I hate to say it, but the experts - it appears at this juncture anyway - are saying that the web will be an advertising-based model for the most part. People want stuff for free when they log onto the web.

SANCTUARY and shows like it will have to seek out ad partners in order to generate the initial income necessary to fund production.

THEN PPV downloads and DVD and the like will come into play.

A STRICTLY PPV model will not suffice.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 4:19 PM  

I've just done some mobisodes for an interactive teen soap here in the UK. Got paid! Nothing I can retire on, obviously, but enough to justify the work. 2 min scenes, leaving them with a hook at the end. But there's also emails from the main character/text messages with various snippets of info/a blog diary for the website etc.

By Blogger Danny Stack, at 4:18 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger l. rolando, at 4:02 AM  

WE OF and consortuim of companies under MEME-CRAFT 2.0
Have done over 30 major Mobisodes and mobimericals world wide and consumers have love
we are a Audio-video Branding-Personalized Advertizing solutions Provider..

By Blogger l. rolando, at 4:03 AM  

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