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VH1 unites television with mobile

VH1, a music channel within the Viacom family, today unveils the consumer launch of a new mobile application which will bring VH1 celebrities and viewers closer together than ever before.

This new application unites the mobile phone and television in a new way, creating interactive mobile communities where people can watch and discuss popular VH1 programming in real-time with friends, fans and even celebrities.

"The strategy for the VH1 Mobile 'Watch and Discuss' Live Chat application is to use the mobile phone to offer VH1 television audiences a place to connect and chat about their favorite shows, making them active participants in the viewing process," said John Burry, CEO of Mobui, Redmond, WA.

"We want fans to create interactive mobile communities where they can analyze and express their opinions with fans, friends, and even VH1 celebrities from shows like "Rock of Love Charm School" and "Real Chance of Love," he said.

Mobui is the mobile application development agency that created the VH1 application. The agency produces mobile Web sites, downloadable mobile applications and desktop widgets for brands.

A recent TNS Global Telecoms Insight study, which interviewed 17,000 respondents across 30 countries, has found that once mobile users adopt mobile instant messaging and chat services it overtakes other SMS, MMS and email messaging tools to become the primary non-voice method of interacting on the phone.

A whopping 61 percent of those surveyed used mobile chat daily, compared to only 55 percent who use SMS text messaging daily, and only 12 percent who use email on their mobile.

"Going mobile is the next step in VH1's 'Watch And Discuss' initiative, enabling their viewers to get even closer and interact with the VH1 brand in more places and with fewer boundaries," Mr. Burry said.

"The majority of television viewers have their mobile phone within an arm's reach when watching their favorite programming," he said.

It makes perfect sense to bring these two technologies - wireless and broadcast - together to make it possible for people to become active participants in the TV-viewing experience.

The VH1 "Watch and Discuss" Live Chat mobile application can be downloaded from the AT&T Media Mall in the 'Cool Tools' category for a one-time download price of $7.99 or a monthly subscription price of $2.99.

The application currently supports 37 phones in the AT&T network including the popular BlackBerry Curve and Pearl, Motorola Razr, and Samsung Blackjack and BlackJack2 models.

The companies plan to deploy the application in other wireless carrier stores and on over 107 different phones, including the iPhone, throughout the upcoming year.

With the new app, users have access to chat rooms tied to VH1's on-air schedule, allowing users to instantly access the chat room of the show that is airing at any given time.

There are also user-defined and celebrity-hosted chat rooms.

"Mobile helps any celebrity, from James Bond to Flavor Flav, reach a new audience," Mr. Burry said.

A recent Nielsen study showed that a brand could increase its audience reach by an average of 13 percent by having a presence on mobile.

"That is a staggering number that speaks to how important the mobile phone is as a marketing medium," Mr. Burry said.

"The launch of the iPhone and the Apple App Store demonstrated that there is great consumer demand for mobile services if you make them easy to discover and fun to use," he said.

"At Mobui, we have seen a large number of leading-edge consumer brands like VH1 reach out to us this year to deliver quality mobile experiences as an integral part of a larger marketing strategy or campaign. I expect we will see even more in 2009."

Users create a "Watch and Discuss" Live Chat profile to manage friend and group lists and add their personal details.

The application's SMS "send to a friend" functionality allows users to invite others to download the application or to join a current chat room by way of text messaging.

"VH1 has implemented a number of different mobile services since they launched their mobile division," Mr. Burry said.

"In addition to publishing a wide range of VH1 shows, music videos and original series on its mobile Web sites and on the carrier VOD services, VH1 Mobile produces original games, applications and interactive television elements as well as offers a subscription ringtone service," he said.

"They feature these services prominently on their Web site and they put real advertising dollars behind promoting these services to their consumers.

"They recognize that mobile has to be part of the marketing mix these days and if they ignore the mobile channel they are ignoring a significant portion of their addressable audience."