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Mobile TV content for more than just entertainment

A year after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing gave mobile TV a dramatic boost, content for the third screen continues to develop in new and interesting ways, with long-form video playing a prominent role — contrary to expectations.

"People argued that no one would watch long-form content on [the handset's] small screen," says Shelly Palmer, TV business commentator. "But what you see is contrary to that. You see people with their heads bent [watching mobile TV] for 45 minutes, an hour."

MediaFLO senior director Vicki Mealer corroborates Palmer's observation. "For Michael Jackson's funeral … the average time people watched was 50 minutes."

Attesting to mobile TV's unique place in the sphere of public events, last week's celebration of the People's Republic of China's 60th anniversary was Beijing's most popular mobile TV program, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. Beijing Mobile TV, which provides mobile TV in city buses and taxis, reported that more than a million Beijing commuters watched the huge military parade.

One use that industry prognosticators probably didn't anticipate is religious practice and commentary. During Ramadan, Middle Eastern carrier du hooked up with regional broadcaster Al Majd to offer subscribers special content, reports Wireless Federation. This included live broadcasts of prayers from Mecca; traditional songs and chants, religious videos and ringtones; daily prayers, worship and teaching; an integrated "SMS to donate" campaign to sponsor Iftar meals (breaking the fast at sunset) for the poor; a trivia contest with prizes of gold bullion; and a Ramadan-themed short story writing contest with free minutes of international calling as prizes. New subscribers received free mobile TV services for the duration of Ramadan.

Jumping back from the sacred to the secular, FOX Mobile has cooked up a new hybrid of advertising and entertainment with its new "branded" mobile TV comedy series, “Brainstorm.” The eight-episode series, which debuted online Sept. 28, features prominent product placement for Wrigley's Altoids mints, going "beyond cursory brand integration and creatively embedded Altoids as an integral, organic plot element," according to FOX Mobile's press release.

FOX worked with creative agency Omelet on the series about an ad agency. "We sought a new kind of integration that is mutually beneficial to marketers and media," said FOX Mobile Studios VP and creative director Michael Wallen. "It's transparent, organic and, most of all, entertaining."

For those who need to keep track of events in two places at once — public officials, for example — Chinese news agency Xinhuaand carrier China Mobile introduced a business-focused 3G mobile TV service for the Shanghai Expo that's the next best thing to being there. Phones Review reports that the service provided "exclusive news about the Shanghai Expo to Shanghai subscribers, along with various news items and analyst reports."

In August, the Discovery Channel celebrated the 22nd year of Shark Week, with a special mobile channel for shark aficionados that featured 24/7 "full-length programs of nonstop shark action.”

For those whose idea of entertainment isn't the secret life of sharks, the Home Shopping Network (opens in new tab) went mobile in August, delivering 24/7 live shopping to iPhones and iPods. HSN claims to be the first retailer to offer live, three-screen shopping. Plus, HSN offers a “shake2shop” feature where you only have to shake the handset to "get access to a set of random products.”

In September, NBC SportsandMobiTV launched live coverage of University of Notre Dame home football via NBC's new Notre Dame Central iPhone app, allowing Fighting Irish fans to watch live coverage of each home game via 3G and WiFi on the iPhone and iPod Touch. In addition to live games, fans can watch video-on-demand highlights including interviews, classic full-game recaps and interactive offerings such as live scoring, stats, news alerts and more.

Blockbuster and Motorolasigned a deal last summer to integrate Blockbuster OnDemand into Motorola's next-generation handsets. The move is part of Blockbuster's multichannel strategy for its OnDemand service.