|Seth Cummings says his vision is to 'build Amp'd subscribers and become the premier mobile entertainment device and define the category.'
Why you need to know him: Mr. Cummings is heading the wireless-service provider's content offerings, which includes building the first 24-hour-a-day entertainment network on a mobile device that targets 18- to 24-year-olds. It's an opportunity for marketers to get in on the ground level of what is likely to be the next generation in the evolution of wireless entertainment.
Credentials: After getting a master's degree in TV management from Boston University, Mr. Cummings, 35, moved to Los Angeles to write a sitcom. "When I was a kid, I was interested in TV and media, and when I visited my relatives on the West Coast, I was fascinated with the Universal Studios back-lot tour, the Warner Bros. tour, a Johnny Carson show taping." He wrote 16 pilot scripts, including one called "Temporary Insanity," about a temporary-employment agency. The networks didn't pick it up. "It was the best thing that happened to me." Now, Mr. Cummings said, his vision is to "build Amp'd subscribers and become the premier mobile entertainment device and define the category."
While most wireless-service providers are approaching content for the third screen cautiously, Amp'd has decided to jump right in. How so? "Amp'd has launched Amp'd TV, with programming from Fox News, Fox Sports, MTVU, International Music Feed, Break TV and the Best of Amp'd, a highlight channel of Amp'd content. In addition, we have three- to five-minute clips on-demand, which emphasize DVD extra-type content in two different packages called Overload, one with access to clips from 25 different network shows and another with access to 40."
Games have proved popular on mobile phones. What are you offering in that area? "We also have built our own games. At [game expo] E3 we announced 'Homeland Security: Kim Jong-Il Edition.' One of our events guys was in the special forces in Australia, and we modeled the lead character in the game after him. The game follows news headlines, and the lead character goes in and assassinates Kim [North Korea's leader]. It's our first original game, but we have 150 other titles, including a 3-D supercross [motorcycle] game with top stars Chad Reed and Jeremy McGrath, and an Ultimate Fighting Championship game featuring Chuck Liddell," as well as Phone Tag, into which the company hopes to integrate brands such as Starbucks.
And music? "We have an entire music division. We are leveraging our partnerships with all our signed music labels, including Universal Music and Warner Music, which will send in artists to our studios, and we will record music videos, songs, voice tones. It's a one-stop shop when a band or artist wants to create a mobile portfolio of content. Programming will be similar to MTV Unplugged, with a host in the studio doing interviews. We have recorded a couple of bands, and content will start appearing on the Amp'd deck at the end of June. We also are the title sponsor of the Fall Out Boy concert tour, and two of their shows were broadcast live. We also sponsor the Tribeca Film Festival and the debut concert on a handset of Death Cab for Cutie."
Amp'd is producing a lot of this content itself. How? "Amp'd has built a TV studio, recording studios and postproduction facilities. We have a truck that broadcasts live to handsets from events -- supercross, Ultimate Fighting Championships, Pro Bull Riding. This mirrors what's next vs. what wireless carriers have. We will have 12 to 20 new linear channels this year."
How is Amp'd integrating marketers into the programming? "We are developing more of a mobile-specific ad strategy, which is more about integrating brands and partners in the content experience. We'll see some interesting new models coming out. In the old days, on programs such as the Colgate hour, one sponsor sponsored the entire show and teased the brand throughout the entire experience so the consumer didn't feel they were getting hit over the head. Trials will begin in the fall. We are not ready to announce any specifics or sponsors."
Is Amp'd getting ad revenue from its MTV or Fox feeds? "Now networks display their channels as is. It's a value add as part of the Amp'd experience. We're testing a full range of options. We are in discussions. It's important we spend the time to get this right. As far as the ad models are concerned, we're looking at everything from the experimental to the traditional."
Who is helping you navigate Hollywood? "We basically pre-built our entire Amp'd live catalog and we had a lot of connections ourselves. We engaged William Morris to help us fill in the blanks, and we met with highest levels at each of those brands, ranging from ABC to Electronics Arts. The William Morris group has been fantastic."
Companies have talked about creating custom handsets for marketers. Does Amp'd have any similar plans? "With [automotive aftermarket lifestyle publication] DUB magazine, we are producing a customized branded handset that will be sold at retail outlets in their own packaging. It's in development and will be launched later in 2006."
Which phone do you carry? "Amp'd Mobile Hollywood."
What's on your TiVo? "'Entourage,' 'The Sopranos,' 'Prison Break,' 'The Office,' Brian Regan stand-up, 'Family Guy,' and the 2004 Red Sox Game 4 World Series and the New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Super Bowl are forever hard-coded on my TiVo hard drive."
What's on your iPod? "I don't carry an iPod. My Amp'd Mobile phone is my MP3 player. On my Amp'd phone I have U2, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, Sinatra, Snoop, Van Halen."
What do you do in your downtime? "Work."