Joins Verizon and Sprint in Serving Subscribers TV Content on Cellphones

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- The TV world long was dominated by three big broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. Now the wireless world can claim its own big three as Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless service provider, today launched a video-on-demand service in 16 markets.

Cingular leaps into a race already started by Verizon Wireless to offer its own brand of video content on cellphones. At the moment, neither the Verizon Wireless plan nor the new Cingular plan sells advertising into the mobile video content.

Sprint operates its TV service via a MobiTV channel under the name Sprint PowerVision. Cingular also offers its subscribers a service from MobiTV, an independent company whose service allows for advertising. Cingular now will also have its own Cingular-branded channel, at the moment ad free, in addition to its MobiTV channel.

Two tiers
That’s a model Verizon may soon adopt. Verizon Wireless’ chief marketing officer, John Stratton, said at Advertising Age’s Madison & Vine conference that he has considered offering subscribers a two-tier video service, one without ads and a second lower-priced, ad-supported offering.

Ads running on MobiTV's live programming reflect ads airing on live TV. In addition, MobiTV offers the equivalent of cable TV’s local ad slots. A number of marketers have signed up with MobiTV, including Gemeral Motor Corp.'s Jeep, Unilever's Axe and Nokia. Most recently, Visa became a MobiTV sponsor. American Express, meanwhile, kicked off its MobiTV buy around the Oscars with ads on MobiTV’s live content, as well as two longer spots that ran on MobiTV’s made for mobile programming.

Content providers
Cingular Video will include clips from an assortment of content providers, including ABC trailers of the network's hit shows “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost”; Cartoon Network’s “The Powerpuff Girls”; Adult Swim’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” on Comedy Central; news content from CNN and Fox; and extensive local-weather information. It also is offering HBO Mobile content for $4.99 a month and HBO Family Mobile content for $2.99 a month. Music video clips, from Music Choice, will be available on a pay-per-view basis for 24 hours.

In marketing the service, Cingular is taking the tack that it is the most personalized of all the wireless service companies' offerings, allowing for a personalized home page with links to three favorite video sites as well as local weather information. The service will roll out nationally, starting with 16 markets, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego and Seattle.

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