Mobile companies line up video deals

Big names are coming to mobile video after a slow start for a service that has been touted as a perfect use for fast 3G (third-generation) networks.

Three deals announced Monday brought prominent Hollywood figures and a major media company deeper into the business of mobile video. They will bring comedy, news and other shows to small screens later this year.

Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting System International signed a deal with Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson in which the communications technology company would deliver a broad package of Turner content to mobile operators' portals and offer some directly to users with mobile browsers. Youth-oriented MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) Amp'd Mobile Inc. signed on partners including "King Kong" and "School of Rock" actor Jack Black and an executive producer of the science-fiction TV drama "The X-Files" to create original shows. Mobile media company Flycell Inc. has formed a development and production company and reached a deal with two Hollywood producers to develop five scripts this year.

Mobile operators already offer many video services, both live and on demand, but they aren't yet being used by most cellular customers. However, service providers have been lining up bigger partners and well-known content sources, such as the Sundance Institute, have been joining in. Verizon Wireless Inc. last year made a deal with Google Inc.'s YouTube unit to show some of the user-generated video site's clips.

Ericsson's deal with Turner encompasses news stories and video from the broadcasting company's CNN unit along with animation from the Cartoon Network cable TV channel and its Adult Swim brand. Turner will sell a package of content to carriers to include in their own mobile portals, and Ericsson will handle the technical side of delivering those offerings. The companies will also make some CNN material, namely text news and weather, available free on a mobile Web site for any browser.

Turner already supplies some of this content to mobile operators an in individual basis, setting up a delivery system each time, said Brian Hickman, director of sales at Ericsson. Ericsson will adapt the content for multiple devices and streamline the process, he said.

The companies will first start working with operators in Latin America and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and plan to expand to other areas later. The free mobile-Web content can be blocked from users outside those areas, Hickman said. The services don't depend on having Ericsson network infrastructure, and Ericsson will seek similar deals with other media companies.

Amp'd Mobile announced a deal with Black and two partners to develop an exclusive series of comedy shorts. Viewers will vote on the shows and determine which return and which are cancelled, the company said. Amp'd will also work with Icebox, co-founded by "The X-Files" executive producer Howard Gordon, which will produce an investigative news series about paranormal sightings around the world.

Flycell's new production company, Flycell Productions, will work with an executive producer of the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" to develop scripts for seven, three-minute mobile shows. Flycell Productions also said it has already entered into co-production agreements for three mobile shows of its own.

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