Mobile Helps Seal The Deal For Paid Media

Whether media companies are directly monetizing the mobile channel through fees or advertising right now, its value in their portfolio far outstrips its bottom-line payout now. I have been hearing about this anecdotally from magazine publishers over the last year, especially -- but it seems to apply across the board for free and fee-based media. While magazines have struggled to make businesses out of their tablet editions, many tell me that bundling tablet versions in with print subscriptions has been integral to retention and renewal.

A new study from eMarketer seems to support this idea.

eMarketer projects that mobile video revenue for subscription-based content will hit $1.25 billion this year, but reach $2 billion by 2017. It contends that mobile is one of the keys to subscription content growth because it helps seal the deal by confirming the value of the paid product via ubiquitous access.

Providers like MLB -- with over 3 million subscribers -- use the mobile channel to press the always-on, always-available quality of their access to Major League games. The MLB At Bat app has been a blockbuster success on devices. Precisely how much a Netflix subscription (29.2 million subs) or Hulu (4+ million, by eMarketer estimates) is driven by the mobile component is unclear. But ubiquity underscores value in a multi-screen era.

eMarketer, for some reason, does not include HBO Go, perhaps one of the best examples of mobile video access driving retention. I, for one, would be reticent to end my HBO premium TV subscription, only because I know it would cut me off from working my way through “The Wire” in the HBO Go archive. “Girls” and “True Blood” I can live without. “Newsroom”? Meh! But always-on Tony Soprano?

I would argue that synchronization is at least as important here, perhaps presumed by multi-screen access. One of the places where Netflix always has excelled is the persistence of experience. This is one place where non-video content still has not learned an obvious lesson from mobile video success stories. Magazines and newspapers need to devise more compelling ways for me to access their print and Web content and push the pieces I see on one screen to other screens where I am more likely to read or need them. Publishers are still working on access as the value, which reminds us just how much media companies continue to fetishize their own content more than their customer. Which is to say that most media companies are still just broadcasting content rather than building products with consumers in mind. 

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