Consumers to Foot Bill for 'Third-Screen' Entertainment for Now

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NEW YORK ( -- News Corp. and CBS Corp. today announced separate plans to provide a multitude of new content for mobile devices including cellphones.

News Corp. unit Fox Mobile Entertainment today rolled out a new cellphone content company, Mobizzo (cellphones in the U.K. are often referred to as "mobbies"). Mobizzo, which is intended to operate on a global basis, is offering games, ring tones, screen savers and video clips, which can be accessed either online or by using a cellphone's key pad, for between $1.99 and $2.49 with monthly subscription plans averaging $5.99.

Cingular and T-Mobile
Consumers whose wireless plans are with Cingular or T-Mobile can access Mobizzo, though Fox Mobile intends to hook up with other wireless providers. A multimillion-dollar ad campaign backs Mobizzo's launch. Rather than simply raiding its vault for clips from Fox movies and TV shows, Fox Mobile is tapping the street for content, too: Mobizzo will offer street art and tattoo designs.

Next week CBS Corp., aiming to better exploit its news and entertainment programming, will launch “CBS News to Go” and “ET to Go” as daily alerts with accompanying video. "News to Go" will sell for 99 cents a month and and “ET to Go” for $3.99 a month.

The moves by the two entertainment giants appear to cement a pricing model that has consumers, rather than advertisers, at its heart. CBS said its twin offerings do not carry advertising at present but may seek ad support down the line.

Lucy Hood, president of Fox Mobile Entertainment, told Advertising Age that the premium content is not suited for advertising, though Fox is looking for advertisers for its "mobisodes," mobile programming for the small screen.

Media buyers not concerned
Media buyers are not concerned about the move away from advertiser-supported content. “More than likely the advertising model is going to prevail over time,” said Jeff Marshall, senior VP-director, Starcom MediaVest Group. “Ultimately, the model is going to play out where there will be pay-per [content], advertising and everything in between.”

But the emergence of cellphones as an advertising-free medium could raise the stakes for media buyers, as anything that pulls consumers away from advertising is a concern, Mr. Marshall said.

As video-equipped cellphones become more widespread, only a couple of million subscribers can currently receive video content, and consumers may be willing to see advertisers support that content.

John Stratton, chief marketing officer of Verizon Wireless, told Ad Age's Madison & Vine conference that the nation's No. 2 carrier is experimenting with a two-tier content service for subscribers, one supported by ads and a more expensive service without ads.

Not angering consumers
The bigger issue is what sort of advertising will work in the mobile marketplace. “How will it work on a device that is very much a part of their [consumers] personal expression. How do you do it in a way that doesn’t piss off the consumer?” said Renny Gleason, engagement specialist, senior VP-managing director, Carat Fusion.

Raja Khanna, chief creative officer and co-founder of Toronto-based QuickPlay Media, gave a hint as to why advertisers have not figured larger in these cellphone content plans. He suggested that content players did not want to rock the boat with the major wireless providers, which have tried hard to maintain a pay model for content with consumers. “Now there’s so much content out there the carriers are approaching subscription saturation. ... There’s definitely a breaking point coming very soon.”

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Alice Cuneo, Abbey Klaassen and Kris Oser contributed to this report.

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