Verizon was in the news again, announcing the launch of V Cast – a new service which provides almost full frame rate video to your 3G cell phone. The service offers hundreds of feeds from popular content providers like NBC, CNN, FOX, etc.
There is a ton of experimentation going on with the format. Fox has created a bunch of mobisodes of “24” which don’t feature the actual cast, but do feature a related story line. The :60 second format is said to offer an emotionally satisfying story arc both individually and serially.
At the Emmy Advanced Media Committee, we like to think about technology as if it is already deployed and has reached critical mass. This kind of thought experiment allows us the luxury of evaluating the “why” and “who” parts of the question as opposed to the “if” and “when” parts. This technique is especially helpful with nascent technologies where form and function are inextricably linked. In this case, you can’t look at the platform and see a mini-television screen – it is either much more or much less! It is more, in that your phone can alert you to the existence of some emergent situation and deliver the message with moving pictures almost instantly. It is less in that the screen size and lack of data about viewer habits and preferences makes one assume that content needs to be crafted in a very different way than previous video content.
V Cast is $15/month and they don’t charge for the extra minutes you use. The first phone offered is the LG VX8000 which happens to be fairly terrible telephone, passable video camera and pretty good still camera. It has room for a big address book and you can get the full array of other Verizon features like, Super Pages (which rock!).
So do you need it? Is it a must have? Well, the current offerings are hard to differentiate. For example, all of the CNN clips have the same title – something like: CNN News Clip. And, one must question the value of acquiring information in sequential, linear, bite-sized, video pieces – untitled news clips might not be the highest, best use of the technology. However, you may really need a kind of video entertainment where form follows function. As a practical matter, there are not many 3G phones in the hands of consumers and V Cast is truly a first generation platform. But … this technology is going to evolve very, very quickly. What killer app will drive this trend from parlor trick to ubiquitous distribution platform? As they say in the old media world … stay tuned!