Why Kids Don’t Watch Movies On Cellphones

Both the motion picture industry and publishing industry have been scrambling to go mobile*. Mobile, they believe, will save the world. And I think they’re partially right. Mobile will be one of the possible choices viewers have — but it can’t and won’t be the only option. If Medialoper has a religion, it is the doctrine of choice.

I’ve been following the Los Angeles Times series on today’s kids and their attitudes toward new media with more avidity than most — it is, after all, my job. And I’m not surprised to learn the two key reasons for slow adoption of the cell phone motion picture experience:

In follow-up interviews with those surveyed, many young people said they were intrigued by the notion of getting their entertainment on devices such as cellphones and iPods. But two major obstacles have so far dampened their enthusiasm: the cost and the uneven quality of the experience.

The Times article suggests that shorter content is more likely to be embraced than longer content; makes sense if uneven quality — one survey participant noted that her video “‘…kept stopping midstream and stuff…'” — is a factor. To understand, you only have to consider the number of times you’ve said, “Can you repeat that? My cell phone is breaking up.”

Price, too, matters. Anecdotal evidence indicates that parents are keeping close watch on cell phone bills — all that texting adds up. Tack on a dollar here, a dollar there…well, have seen the price of gas lately?

Oh, and then there’s the issue of deal-making. This is a major entertainment industry stumbling block. Everyone loves a deal. Everyone loves the word “exclusive.” Everyone loves to be the one who signs the exclusive deal on the dotted line.

Hi! Remember us? We’re the consumers who use Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, Nextel/Sprint, Virgin, the next big thing. What with investments in hardware and long-term contracts, we’re not going to switch service providers willy nilly. We will forego your content. The moment you go “exclusive” with one vendor, you carve out a large percentage of your potential audience. From the consumer perspective, choosing a new cell company isn’t easy: when you get down to it prices are about the same, quality is about the same, phone selection is about the same — possibly new media choices will be a swing factor, but only if it doesn’t tack on significant dollars to the monthly bill.

* – The music industry mostly gets a pass here because mobile has been their turf forever.

One Response to “Why Kids Don’t Watch Movies On Cellphones”

  1. Jim says:

    I continue to think that the killer video content apps for cellphones — or any mobile device — won’t be entertainment, but on-demand information: maps, weather, traffic, restaurants, where the next gas station, bank ATM is, etc.

    Information that you can use to make informed decisions when you are in unfamiliar territory.