Into the Wild with a Mobile

Wildlife show suppliers often veer off the beaten track. But, that tendency is taking on more of a sales spin these days as distribs explore non-traditional outlets for natural history content.
September 1, 2003

Wildlife show suppliers often veer off the beaten track. But, that tendency is taking on more of a sales spin these days as distribs explore non-traditional outlets for natural history content.

Video streaming (which allows real-time video to be transmitted via the Internet) appears especially promising. For example, Matthew White, VP of National Geographic Film Library in Washington, D.C., reports that Nat Geo TV and Film has sold content to United Learning, an educational service based in Evanston, U.S., that streams video to some 22,000 U.S. schools. ‘[United Learning] created four to five-minute pieces and tied them to school curriculums,’ he explains.

In addition, Nat Geo now supplies short video-clip content (original segments fashioned from library material) to two Internet platforms: The National Geographic Channel, part of Yahoo’s Platinum subscription service; and AOL’s Research & Learn channel, also a subscription service.

‘We see high click-through on anything to do with animals,’ says Elizabeth Ward, executive director for AOL’s Research & Learn and Parenting channels. Because the company is ramping up its usage of video content, she hasn’t yet determined how much it will need annually, but most of what she’s looking for at present is in the five to seven-minute range. The deal with Nat Geo was a one-time arrangement for 30 two to three-minute segments for an indefinite run, and aol does not have exclusive rights over the material.

White acknowledges these ventures carry more promotional punch than cash value right now- current revenue from these outlets is negligible compared to income generated from traditional sources, he notes – but that may change. ‘I think it can be significant,’ he says of the potential for revenue.

Mobile devices are also under investigation at several companies, including Nat Geo and Silver Spring, U.S.-based Discovery Communications. Sophisticated mobile devices, such as Palm Pilots and BlackBerrys, now deliver polyphonic ring tones of howling wolves and screaming chimps, rather than just imitating them. Most new mobile phones can also stream video content.

‘There’s a big push by [U.K.] mobile carriers to serve the 15-to-35 age group, mostly males,’ says Simon Weitzman, MD of 3GXMobile, a London-based company that helps content providers distribute video to carriers. (This demo is perceived as having the most disposable income for such services.) Wildlife – along with naked women and fast cars – is a key way to reach them, he says, adding that carriers are currently paying 200 euros to 400 euros (US$220 to $440) per clip over a six-month licensing period.

But, wildlife also tends to attract affluent, well-educated consumers who are early adapters to new technology in general, notes Arthur Orduna, VP of strategic initiatives at the U.S. media firm Advance/ Newhouse and formerly an executive at Canal+ U.S. Technologies. As mobile devices become an added feature in cars, and digital video recorders become more prevalent, alternative opportunities are sure to increase, he says.

A better revenue stream these days can perhaps be found in DVDs. Carl Hall, managing director of London-based prodco/distrib Parthenon Entertainment, is one who is investigating this field. His team is talking with hair salons, many of which have installed TV screens to entertain patrons, about airing wildlife shows. ‘It’s relaxing for people who are bored out of their minds for two or three hours,’ he notes. Hall likens the arrangement to in-flight deals, for which the going rate is about US$1,500 per month for an hour of programming.

Hall acknowledges that ventures such as this are more speculative than lucrative right now – bringing in less than one percent of the prodco’s total revenue – but he firmly believes that no potential source of revenue should be ignored.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.