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Sprint Introduces New Phone to Boost Mobile TV Service

Aug 17, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Television on the cellphone got a big boost this week when Sprint introduced a new phone that delivers video from CNN, NBC Universal, Fox Sports, The Weather Channel, E! and others at 15 frames per second. That’s much closer to television quality, at 30 frames per second, than most mobile phones in the United States have delivered video. Wireless phones have previously sent video at speeds closer to one or two frames per second.

That means cellphone users can watch video at closer to streaming video quality rather than slide-show style.

The service, called Sprint TV, will include more than 600 clips per day in news, sports, entertainment and weather. Usage is unlimited and is not metered by minutes or kilobits, said Jeff Hallock, VP of product marketing at Sprint. The service is available on the Samsung MMA700, which retails for $399 in Sprint stores. The phone includes a media player and three times the processing power of previous phones, Mr. Hallock said.

Sprint TV is the “basic cable” package at $9.95 per month and includes content from NBC, Fox Sports, The Weather Channel and other networks. So-called premium channels from CNN, E! and others cost an additional $4.95 per month on average.

Wireless video represents an opportunity to grow new audiences, since networks such as CNN and CNN Headline News are mature businesses, said David Payne, senior VP and general manager of CNN.com. “This opportunity is huge given the consumption of telephone minutes and services, particularly by young people,” Mr. Payne said. “People have no desire to be without something to do.”

That’s where the wireless phone service comes in, he said, as the device that can bridge the gap when consumption-hungry consumers crave info stimulation and do not have access to a TV or the Internet.

The CNN service, customized for the mobile phone, will include an updated three-minute news clip each hour as well as on-demand access to eight to 10 news clips each day on particular stories.

Mr. Payne anticipates a return on the investment immediately because CNN will simply leverage the resources it already has in its Internet business to produce video content for the wireless phones. Producing for the Web and producing for wireless phones isn’t that different, he said. Mr. Payne expects mobile video to remain in the early adopter phase for another 12 months as the consumer thresholds for different price points become clear and as standards develop, so that content providers need to create the content only once regardless of the phone or service.

Sprint has offered live TV channels through MobiTV for nearly a year. Sprint TV is different because the content is customized for mobile phones.