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Mobile Content Comes to Hollywood

Los Angeles -- Mobile content is increasingly going Hollywood, so it was appropriate that the opening of the Billboard MECCA fall entertainment conference here featured talk of content-distribution strategies, consumer trends and the odd loaf of Wonder Bread hurled into the crowd.

The latter came during an opening keynote by Paul Reddick, Sprint Nextel’s vice president of business development and planning strategy. Appearing on stage dressed as comedian Will Farrell’s dimwitted race-car driver, Ricky Bobby, Reddick proceeded to pelt the audience with loaves of Wonder Bread, as well as a series of myths about the wireless industry.

Regarding the latter, Reddick started out by saying that Sprint Nextel was not just a dumb pipe delivering mobile content. While much of the content would continue to come from third parties -- as the cable industry did in bringing local news, weather and information to add to network programming -- Sprint Nextel expects to do that, as well, he said.

By far the biggest bottleneck in providing more mobile content to consumers is not the ability of wireless networks to deliver it -- Reddick pointed out that Sprint Nextel and other wireless carriers have invested big bucks to create broadband networks -- but rather the labyrinthian process of securing digital rights. He pointed to 30-year-old movie Dirty Harry, in which Clint Eastwood uttered the famous line, “Well, do you feel lucky today?”

That would make a great ring tone, but Reddick noted that getting the necessary approvals from the stars, movie studio and other rights owners was a steep hurdle, “and God forbid there was music playing in the background.”

Nor is mobile TV just “tiny TV,” Reddick insisted, adding that it was much richer in experience. Sprint Nextel was the first mobile carrier to launch a live TV service with Sprint PowerTV in 2003, and since then, it has found a ready audience in viewers who want to see their TV on the go.

The company also last week unveiled Sprint Movies, a download service that offers 45 movies titles initially from Buena Vista Video on Demand, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures priced at $4-$6 per view.

A clear sign that a new service has arrived is when the advertisers show up, and that was a big theme at the mobile entertainment forum.

Reddick also emphasized that, saying that despite the common belief, ads attached to mobile video and other content were not an immediate turnoff for customers. He pointed to Toyota Motor Sales’ sponsorship of Fox mobisodes based on hit series Prison Break.

CNN also has been advertising on Sprint’s PowerVision content service to test how that would play with customers, “and we haven’t seen people run away from the service,” Reddick added.