How Much Profit Is Lurking in That Cellphone?

By RICHARD SIKLOS The New York Times March 5, 2006

IN some ways, wireless is the new China. Both are huge, largely untapped markets for news and entertainment media companies. And media executives have made a lot of dreamy statements about both of these markets and funneled a lot of effort into them. Yet neither has yet translated into a significant new businesses for established companies, which are feverishly seeking ways to grow in a world of technological and competitive obstacles.

While China's media moment seems eternally right around the corner, mobile may be approaching its own at last -- it may just take a lot longer and be less earth-shaking than the recent hoopla may suggest. Last week, there were announcements of three ventures by media companies looking to insinuate themselves into the hip pockets of teenagers and their elders. All three are part of a deluge of wireless moves and offer glimpses at new ways of both distributing existing products and using big-media power to start new businesses.

In one of the deals unveiled last week, the MTV Networks unit of Viacom said it would sell mobile versions of its MTV, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central channels to Sprint customers; the services will include video clips from shows including "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

The most intriguing announcement came from a tentacle of the News Corporation, in the form of Mobizzo, which is essentially a kind of online studio and store for selling games, ring tones and adornments for mobile handsets.

CBS, meanwhile, which is perhaps best known for its notably unhip television network, plans to start a venture along the lines of Mobizzo in a few weeks. For now, CBS unveiled a plan to sell multimedia message alerts nationwide that will play short video clips on some cellphones. In a way, CBS aims to show that it wants to compete in this arena along with MTV, NBC and ESPN -- rivals that have been making their content available across a range of new mobile formats and gizmos.

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Monty Solomon
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