MTVN, BET Show Off Mobile Plays

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Las Vegas -- TV content is increasingly making its way onto mobile devices, and if what Black Entertainment Television chairman and CEO Debra Lee and MTV Networks Music Group president Van Toffler said proves out, viewers are coming to expect that connection between big and small screens.

Lee and Toffler showed off how their television empires are intersecting with the mobile world at CTIA Wireless 2006 here.

Noting that with mobile, Internet and TV outlets, “Today’s consumers have unprecedented control over their own media,” Lee said BET has responded with a four-part strategy: focusing on the audience, understanding technology, leveraging strategic assets and partnering where appropriate.

Using those four drivers also gave BET a catchy new slogan, Lee said, adding, “Thus, when we applied all of this, we came up with an approach that is our new rallying cry: whatever, whenever and wherever.”

The network’s BET Mobile service now offers graphics, ring tones, games and fan clubs and, in the future, the plan is to expand that to include video. The mobile service is a good fit for BET’s African-American audience, which, according to user data, spends more on cellular service than the general cell-phone population and uses more advanced services.

The response has been strong and, in some cases, surprising. Lee cited last year’s BET Awards, where it offered an SMS (short-message-service) voting element to the live broadcast. But even after the broadcast was over, viewers continued to text in messages about the commentators, the artists and the performances at the show, “so we inadvertently gave them a tool that supported more interactivity,” Lee said.

Toffler, meanwhile, told the crowd that short-form video drawn from TV channels including MTV: Music Television, VH1, Logo and Spike TV were creating a new way for artists to reach a new -- and mobile -- audience.

“Today, our audiences have a much more dimensionalized relationship with our content,” he said, noting that it extends from TV to include computers and cell phones.

Toffler emphasized that the mobile phone is the most valuable device in MTV’s teen and young-adult audience, and the programmer is paying attention to that. As a result, MTVN is now the largest provider of mobile content.

In March, it streamed nearly 2.5 million videos across carrier networks including Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless, and streaming-video usage is growing by nearly 40% each month during the first quarter of this year.

“Extending our shows to the mobile arena means unique and compelling content to all three screens,” he added.

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