Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

'Tardisode' audience fails to materialise

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Monday October 16, 2006

The BBC's heavily publicised "Tardisodes" - one-minute Doctor Who episodes designed specifically for mobile phones - were a flop, the corporation has revealed.

Stella Creasey, the BBC's head of audience research, said they only attracted an average of 3,000 phone downloads per mobisode.

"That's not many," added Ms Creasey. "It seems we have a long way to go to understanding this new space."

Despite being attached to one of the BBC's biggest brands and receiving heavy cross-promotion during the series earlier this year, the Tardisodes did not meet the BBC's expectations for mobile phone downloads.

Downloads to PCs of the bespoke mini-prequels and teaser Tardisode episodes reached 2.6 million users. But, speaking at the Mipcom programming market in Cannes last week, Ms Creasey said the same Tardisodes offered to mobile subscribers attracted only 40,000 downloads over the 13-week series.

One problem, said Iain Tweedale, the new media editor for BBC Wales, was that even though the BBC provided the mobisodes free, most users had to pay a charge to their phone operator of between 1.50 and 2 per Tardisode.

"The fact that there were 2.6 million downloads to PCs shows that there was an interest, so I think the problem with mobile was purely a commercial issue," said Mr Tweedale.

"The operators' tariff structures aren't flexible enough to allow for low-priced usage," he added.

There were also problems with handset compatibility. "I couldn't see the episodes on my Samsung 3G handset, and it's less than a year old," said Mr Tweedale.

The Mobile Entertainment Forum, an industry group that includes mobile operators, handset makers and content providers, has been working to harmonise prices and shortcodes across operators, but there is more work to be done.

"One of the biggest problems is the fragmentation among handsets and networks," said Patrick Parodi, the chairman of MEF.

"With music we are getting there, but video is going to take a while. It's going to take more risks on the part of broadcasters, and the operators working together."


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