@3GSM: While Music Frets Over Mobile Usability, TV Forges Ahead

Photo: EmerceWarner Music Group’s Edgar Bronfman, Jr., may have urged mobile industry bosses to simplify their screens for music in Barcelona this morning, but MTV is happy to take on the task of designing intuitive interfaces using available tools. “Edgar Bronfman was right,” MTV Networks’ SVP-mobile media Greg Clayman told me today. “Even though we are having success there [with mobile programming], it’s still difficult to find the content that you want. One thing the operators are beginning to do is open up and allow different companies to create their own UIs.” “It’s a fact of the mobile screen that it’s really small – it’s just lists and lists,” he added.

MTV Networks has broken out of the handset makers’ own system of menus to offer a range of music-led video channels with their own look and feel, including CMT Mobile and MTV Mobile. VH1 Classic proved particularly successful in driving ringtone sales from artists like Jimi Hendrix, Clayman said, adding that MTV would utilize concert footage shot from gig-goers’ cellphones. Earlier, in a keynote session, the company’s global head of digital media, Mika Salmi showcased its range of games and animations produced using Flash Lite, a mobile version of the desktop animation format, and Flash Cast, a client-server platform that transmits Flash-constructed content as channels. Viacom last year picked Adobe as its “preferred” supplier of rich-media authoring tools.

The crossroads to which WMG’s Bronfman Jr. today took mobile music may now be whether to improve native handset interfaces sufficiently to improve download services, as suggested by the label boss, or to encourage individual operators and hardware makers to competitively write intuitive but disparate applications using rich platforms like those from Adobe, as MTV does.

“I absolutely concur with Edgar on one thing, which is this idea of simplicity,” Salmi said. “We are also somewhat concerned for our core consumer base, which is teens and young adults; it’s just not that simple for them. We not only do Flash Lite games, but we’re demoing here Flash Cast and showing some content based on their new Flash Cast platform. And I just read they’re going to come out with video in Flash Lite 3 so that should be very good for us also.”