Mobile networks give up, merge UGC portals to take on YouTube

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Several years after everyone else pointed out what they could do with their multimedia devices, the mobile carriers are waking up to the idea that users do not want to have to silo their “generated content” in mobile video portals owned by one operator and which have no incentive for them to generate the content in the first place.

So today, 3 and O2 dragged journalists down to a morning press conference (only to leak the story to the Guardian at the same time) that they are merging their user generated video clip sites into one portal to be renamed EyeVibe (currently “under construction“), which anyone with a video-enabled mobile phone will be able to access. Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange are rumoured to be joining the service as well later this month. Obviously each mobile operator will take a slice of the action depending on how many of their customers upload.

The move to merge their operations highlights the abject failure of UK mobile operators to get on the UGC video bandwagon. EyeVibe is also a fairly short-termist, cynical move designed to hold back the inexorable movement towards flat-rate data plans. This is viewed as a commodity business which favours GooTube, hence the push for a service driven my MMS.
In the UK 3 launched SeeMeTV in October 2005 while O2 launched LookAtMe the following year. Clearly neither have been successful enough to bother running separately. Together the two services have attracted 60,000 video clips (pathetic, given that YouTube gets 100m a day) which have been “downloaded” (presumably to other mobiles) about 32 million times, generating about £800,000 for uploaders.

The same revenue share model will apply to EyeVibe, giving back a very small slice of the revenues every time that video is watched via someone else’s mobile. Downloading a clip on O2 and 3 costs 10p while browsing the actual EyeVibe site will be free. In theory if that £800,000 pot were shared equally then each clip made the owner about £13.33 – but of course a few – likely the ones featuring skin – would have made much more than others, so it’s going to be pretty cold out there in the Long Tail. Plus, you have to have a Paypal account to earn from EyeVibe, which a lot of the teenagers uploading won’t have.

Granted, you still need PayPal to earn cash from YouTube, access to which is clearly going to be discouraged by network operators wishing to push their combined EyeVibe brand.

EyeVibe will be launched with a £1m ad campaign by partner Heinrich Bauer, the German publishing group which last year bought Emap’s consumer magazines and which will run the service using its in-house tech firm Yospace, acquired this time last year for a total of around £14m.

But there is a slight fly in the ointment for this impending launch. Eyevibe looks likely to use Eyevibe.net for is service, as Yospace has registered that, along with Eyevibe.co.uk. But the more obvious EyeVibe.com is currently dead and owned by some guy in the US called Eric MacIver.

Surely Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, 02 and 3 could make the guy an offer to get a URL which might actually earn them some money?

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