Ad supported television, music and videos seem unlikely to make their way to Australian mobiles, since the user numbers just aren't there yet, and the paid content market is too lucrative.
BBC Worldwide Mobile head Peter Mercier, who was in Sydney this week to attend the Mobile Content World conference, told ZDNet.com.au that "ad supported content has been at the root of the television business for years", but the key to having free content, such as videos and music clips beamed to mobiles, paid for by advertisements, is having enough traffic to make it worth while for the advertisers.
The BBC Mobile chief believes the volumes are only just reaching this point in the UK, where the typical rule of thumb for content providers is to deliver upwards of one million page impressions per month, at which stage it becomes "significant enough for an advertiser".
Mercier went on to say that he is not yet convinced it is worth it to create ad supported content in Australia, saying: "Frankly, the money today is in pay."
Nathan Burley, analyst at research firm Ovum agreed. "The mobile paid for content last year was bigger than the internet advertising market," he said. "Paid for is not a model that will be replaced for a while."
He said that while monetising mobile websites with advertising was feasible, content with high data levels such as music and videos will likely only be partially paid for by ads. He doesn't see free TV coming to Australian mobiles in the foreseeable future.
Mercier said, however, that his no vote on advertising supported content is a qualified one; some content will attract advertisers not on the number of pure views, but on the "discreteness" of the audience, or how individual and identifiable its interest is.
For instance, one BBC brand that has a very discrete audience is Top Gear — a motoring enthusiasts favourite on television and via its mobile site — which is a safe bet for advertisers given the tendency its viewers have to spend substantially more on automotive products than others.
A spokesperson from Sensis agreed with this, saying page impressions are "crucial", but that being able to serve advertisements at the right time of the day and to target the right people — as can be done via mobile — can often mean more conversions.
Is mobile going the same way as the internet?
US telecommunications giant, AT&T, warned in April that the internet's existing network architecture may collapse under its own weight due to the rapidly increasing volume and range of content — particularly video — being trafficked by users daily.
Asked if the same may happen to mobile networks, Mercier said that although the infrastructure suffers from the same issue it has not reached a critical point yet, because there simply isn't enough traffic, which he believes would be a "nice problem to have".