For MTV, Mobile Is the 'Holy Grail'

Network Has Become World's Largest Content Provider for Cellphones

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NEW YORK ( -- A sign of how important wireless is becoming to content companies, MTV Networks Music President Van Toffler delivered this morning's keynote address at CTIA Wireless 2006 in Las Vegas. He was joined on stage at the end of the presentation by hip-hop artist LL Cool J, who chimed in on the wireless industry's importance to the music business.
Van Toffler
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The short-form nature of wireless, Mr. Toffler said, allows MTV to "go back to our A.D.D. roots to deliver content that we grew up on," such as music videos and "sharts," an MTV phrase for short-form animated and live-action video that tells a story in five- to 15-second art breaks (talk about attention-deficit disorder). He talked about using wireless to extend TV programs and brands, to air unique made-for mobile programming and find new revenues in the music industry.

Reaching a billion cellphones
In a relatively short time, MTV Networks has become the world's largest content provider for mobile phones. It works with 63 providers worldwide and has access to more than a billion cellphones, Mr. Toffler said. In the U.S., it is the first content provider to generate more than 1 million streams in a month on Verizon's V Cast service.

Later this summer, MTV will introduce a new service that creates mobile communities around user-generated content. He didn't elaborate in his keynote, but several weeks ago told Advertising Age that MTV plans to allow users to create their own ringtones and other wireless content, which they can then upload to their phones.

Big spenders on mobile
"The mobile handset is the holy grail of electronic devices," he said. While global youth spend $16 billion on music, they spend $106 billion on mobile. Teens rank it more desirable than laptop computers, MP3 players and video-game consoles.

Already, user-generated content is making its way to the phone. Mr. Toffler showed a clip, previously aired at an MTV upfront presentation, of a user-generated music video set to Fallout Boy's "Sugar We're Going Down." It's a spoof on commonly mistaken song lyrics and MTV found it on the Web. When they contacted Andrew, the New Jersey boy who created it, he hung up on them, since he didn't believe that MTV was calling him.

"We're going to do more 'Videos by Andrew' on all of our platforms," Mr. Toffler said.

Comedy Central, VH1
At CTIA, MTV Networks also announced wireless applications for Comedy Central and VH1 that let users access the network's content from a hub on their phones -- think video-on-demand for the small screen. Sprint is the first to carrier to offer the service. The two networks also launched made-for-mobile series: VH1's "A Dingo Ate My Video," with puppets commenting on music videos, and Comedy Central's "The Clip Joint," featuring New York standup comics.

Right now, MTV Network's U.S. mobile offerings are done through carriers and typically require consumers to foot the bill. But supplying consumers directly with ad-supported mobile content appears inevitable for many advertisers and media companies that want to exploit the relationship consumers have with their phones. It's a touchy subject for companies like MTV, which counts telecoms and wireless carriers as major ad buyers -- it may not want to bite the hand that feeds it by bypassing them to reach consumers.

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