Freddie Flintoff on your phone! How the Ashes are going mobile

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Freddie%282%29.jpgHurrah for England, we’re going to stuff the Aussies in the Ashes. Well, I can hope. But the Ashes are significant this year not JUST because of England’s imminent historic whitewashing of Ricky, Shane and chums (am I tempting fate yet?). It’s also the first Ashes to have its own ‘mobishow’.

What’s that when it’s at home? A made for mobile TV show called Ashes Down Under, which consists of three-minute episodes consisting of news, reports, banter and contributions from current England captain Andrew Flintoff AND his crocked predecessor Michael Vaughan.

“It’s about taking something like the Ashes, which is going to be a massive event over here, and creating a suite of content around it,” says Pete Russell from Player One, the firm behind the mobishow. “Sky have the live and highlights rights for the actual event, but there’s a lot more you can do with it.”

Each three-minute mobishow is hosted by orange leading TV presenter Mark Durden-Smith, including updates from Michael Vaughan, highlights from the last Ashes series, and clips from a roving reporter Down Under. There’ll also be plenty of interaction, with viewers able to send in video, text and picture contributions from their phone, and pose video questions to be answered by Flintoff.

Vaughany.jpg“Getting individuals like Vaughan and Freddie involved is critical, as they’re the guys at the coal-face, and people want to hear their views,” says Russell. “The key for us is to make sure there’s some relevance for viewers. We’ve also done a deal with an animation company in Australia, so if something dramatic happens, we can get a new animation of it out in 48 hours.”

Player One has also created other video Ashes content, boiling each of the last Ashes series’ test matches down to a two-minute highlight sequence. Apparently operators are keen on all this content around big sporting events, particularly when they don’t have the rights to show the action live on their mobile TV services.

“Live and highlights is obviously important, but I’d question whether a lot of people will actually want to watch the Ashes live on their phones,” says Russell. “We’re taking the view that there’s a lot of downtime around it – it’s a three-month tour – so let’s get some interesting titbits in there to plug the gaps when there isn’t any live action.”

Player One has teamed up with production firm Twofour Mobile to actually make the mobishows, which Russell says is important because they really are made for mobile, rather than just trying to squeeze a traditional TV broadcast into a phone. He admits that it’s been a technical challenge making the mobishows look good on some less powerful handsets, but says Twofour’s specialist knowledge was crucial.

BrettLee.jpgThat said, Russell isn’t just focusing on mobile for this sort of sports content. Ashes Down Under is also going to be available as a video iPod download, and on Orange’s broadband portal.

“Mobile is the focus right now, but this is a multi-platform play,” says Russell. “A lot of this content is going to work equally well on broadband. And in the future, mobile and broadband integration will be driven even more by content. We’re working on a Freddie Flintoff fantasy game, which will be online with a related mobile application. Within operators like Orange, the mobile and broadband content people are talking quite closely to each other, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.”

Stuart Dredge