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Creative Way to Launch TV on a Mobile Phone

TelecomTV reports that if you want to witness how a mobile phone service provider can think outside the box of conventional wisdom, then you'll have to go to the UK and see for yourself how "3" has distinguished itself from the rest of the market players.

There has been lots of publicity about the potential of TV on mobile handsets, and this week the British market has an innovation from Hutchinson 3G UK -- the country's first 3G network operator -- which launched an enhanced version of its TV news and entertainment content, now subsidized by advertising.

The TV service offering is unique. 3 subscribers wanting to use the free advertiser-supported service must first access a screen on their mobile device that requires them to input personal details such as age, sex, interests, etc. -- a profile of their lifestyle and interests -- so that the advertising they will watch before and after the mobile TV content can be targeted, and thereby highly relevant to the individual subscriber.

3 anticipates that the new service capabilities will attract significant gains in advertising revenue, in addition to the mobile phone subscription fees that the carrier already makes from the currently limited number of customers who choose to pay 3 for video news and entertainment services without advertising.

TelecomTV believes that the development is interesting, but 3 is taking a gamble by introducing advertising on handsets -- despite research evidence showing that users are willing to accept targeted ads before and after viewing a video clip. In contrast, I don't believe that this approach is risky, it's bold and refreshing. It gives subscribers a clear choice, which is the smart marketing model.

John Penberthy-Smith, 3's marketing director said, "We recognize that you can't just force advertising on to customers, you have to give them something valuable in return if you expect to get their attention." And apparently, that's why the carrier is adding value to its mobile TV offerings with new content, programming and partners.

Mobile phone service providers already have a abundance of valuable data about their customers, and yet few actually choose to use that insight to enhance their customer experience. Moreover, the 3 TV offering demonstrates that customers will gladly contribute to the process of data enrichment, when there's a clear and apparent benefit to them. Avoiding irrelevant advertising is such a benefit, and I commend Hutchinson 3G UK for their creative leadership.

By the way, the marketing tag-line on their consumer website says "We Value Freedom" and that just about says it all, from my point of view. They clearly do get it, but most mobile service providers don't. Something to think about? You decide.

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