HBO Aims Sopranos Clips at Cingular Phones

Cingular Wireless plans on Thursday to reveal a multiyear exclusive deal with HBO to send video clips of hit television shows including the Sopranos to mobile phones, Ovum analyst Roger Entner said.

Cingular, a venture of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., will use the clips to encourage customers to use a high-speed wireless network that it plans to expand from 16 markets to about 100 of the country's top markets next year.

Cingular and HBO were not immediately available to comment but Cingular has said it was holding a press event at HBO's offices on Thursday afternoon.

HBO, a popular premium cable TV network owned by Time Warner Inc, has agreed to send Cingular customers exclusive clips of future hit shows as well as current programs, Entner said.

Given HBO's popularity among cable subscribers Entner said that the agreement was a key win for Cingular over cable providers and Sprint Nextel Corp. , which is setting up a wireless venture with four of the top U.S. cable providers.

"Suddenly the best show on cable is not working with its traditional partners," he said. "Its certainly a body blow for the cable consortium and Sprint."

Large wireless providers the world over are developing services such as music and video downloads for mobile phones in an effort to extend revenue sources beyond voice services.

The agreement with HBO could help boost Cingular's image as a provider of such advanced services.

While Cingular, the biggest U.S. wireless firm, was first in the United States to sell popular phones such as Motorola Inc.'s Razr, it is behind rivals in its plans to build its high-speed network.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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