Devolution Digital has been set up with the intention of fulfilling the potential of mobile broadcast technology and the internet for digital movie-making and distribution, delivering movie shorts and feature-length films to the consumer, via mobile phones and other hand-held devices, at a fraction of the ‘Hollywood’ cost.
Rethink Research Associates has forecast that 244 million handsets worldwide will be enabled with a high quality form of mobile TV by 2011. This estimate, combined with the fact that proven technology already exists for broadcasters to open themselves up as multi-platform media gateways, reinforces the emerging belief that high-quality shorts and feature-length movie content for distribution to mobile phones and other hand-held devices is the next major revenue earner for telcos.
The price of producing a typical Hollywood movie can easily exceed the $100 million mark, making mobile film distribution an expensive luxury with either the consumer or the service provider footing their share of the cost. However, the development of technologies such as HDV, (a new recording format that allows for High Definition footage to be recorded onto standard MiniDV cassettes), and advances in editing software and compression makes the digital filmmaking process surprisingly cheap – especially compared with the traditional Hollywood film finance model – and there is very little difference in terms of quality.
The founder of Devolution Digital, Graeme Ballard, explained that his vision for the business was simple – “The increase in interest in User Generated Content media sites such as MySpace and YouTube were significant influences in the development of the business model for Devolution Digital’s inexpensive production and distribution proposition. Success of online ‘soaps’ such as Bebo’s new hit phenomenon ‘Kate Modern’, and all the latest industry data, shows that young consumers are adapting their viewing habits and are open to viewing lengthy content online. Why should telcos be held to ransom for quality content by the film industry given that new digital technology means they can commission their own content or buy other, digital content of similar quality for a fraction of the price?”
The statistics also support this idea: in 1980 box office sales made up 55% of the revenues of a typical film. This is now down to only 15% because of the rise of VHS then DVD. Some 25 years on, YouTube now reaches more of the 18-24 male market than MTV, and Harris Interactive found that 32% of frequent YouTube users say they watch less television.
The number of worldwide mobile video subscribers increased more than 300% between 2005 and 2006 and is set to soar to over 46 million by 2010 , intensifying the need and desire to expand mobile broadcast opportunities. As the mobile industry persistently conquers new technological areas in providing customers with a full range of entertainment options on their mobile phones, a low cost (feature-length) film supplier will become a highly sought after entity. Devolution Digital aims to deliver high quality independent film, tailor made for broadcast on mobile TV and hand held devices, at a fraction of the Hollywood cost – and is the first company in the world to do so on a commercial basis.
Mobile TV trials have begun and already lessons are being learnt and valuable insights into the process gained. Orange’s trial in France for example has demonstrated that demand for mobile TV is high, with customers expecting it to be available everywhere: at home, at work, in public transport, street, car etc. In Helsinki TeliaSonera found that over 50% of participants believed that the service has full potential, and 41% agreed that they would potentially buy Mobile TV services in the future. Also early evidence is suggesting that the average age of mobile TV customers is rising above the commonly assumed teenager enhancing the profitability of the market. Having announced the arrival of a new “byte-sized” soap to be broadcast on television, phones and computers, NZ Vodafone is carrying out an effective content trial programme with the teen drama “My Story”. Filmed in forty 2 minute episodes and screened on C4 each week night, while also being made available to download on Vodafone Live compatible 3G phones, the entire week’s episodes are also available to view online one week after broadcast, making “My Story” the first drama created in New Zealand specifically designed for multiple broadcast platforms. And it has been received extremely well by consumers.
Across the Telco marketplace it is clear that to succeed in the business it is essential to design and build applications and services from the ground up, getting content services that customers actually want to use, and that they value mobile access to. Devolution Digital provides a platform for this process to commence, starting with budding scriptwriters uploading their own scripts onto a global medium to be rated and possibly made into high-quality feature length films using inexpensive digital filming, production and distribution methods.
People that join the site will be able to judge and vote for scripts they and others upload, and they will also be able to suggest changes to storylines and make amendments to scripts, rather like on the hugely popular fanfiction sites (see fanfiction.net). Once the scripts have been judged by the public and staff writers, then the process of turning winning scripts into feature films or a series of shorts can begin. It is a considerably cheaper and much more democratic approach to film-making which signals the next stage of development from the likes of ‘You Tube’ and, in the longer term, may well signal the end of the traditional Hollywood film finance model.