MTVN Phones In Mobile Content

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MTV Networks has always taken its programming cues from trends among its youth-oriented audiences — and these days that is prompting a major drive into the burgeoning world of content aimed at mobile-phone screens.

With an average of 2.5 million mobile video streams from all MTVN properties, including MTV: Music Television, VH1 and Comedy Central, served up per month on Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Amp'd Mobile services during the first quarter of 2006, it appears the programmer's audience is climbing on board.

Van Toffler, president of the MTV Music Group will talk about the TV music programming house's ride into mobile programming at this week's CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. He is among a lineup of cable players — including Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt and Black Entertainment Television chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee — giving keynote speeches at the show, expected to attract some 40,000 attendees.

For MTV, the driving factor in its mobile play is the fact that its youth and young-adult audiences are attached to their mobile phones, not only for communication but increasingly for content.

“In fact, it is in our research their Holy Grail, as we call it, and much more important to them and part of their lives than their MP3 players or any other portable device,” Toffler said.

So MTV has created mobile content related to TV shows such as VH1's Web Junk 20 and MTV's Laguna Beach and 8th and Ocean. That includes clips with video sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, as well as cast interviews.

MTV also is developing original, short-format mobile shows. One of the first in that genre will be Comedy Central's Samurai Love God, an animated series with eight two-and-a-half-minute episodes, featuring voice work from adult film actress Jenna Jameson. It will debut later this spring.

“For us at MTV — much of us who grew up here — it's kind of a return to what differentiated MTV as a TV channel — all of that short-form content, packaging and art forms that lived in between the videos,” Toffler noted.

Another focus for MTV is music, including the recent rollout of 15 live streaming radio channels on Sprint's “Power Vision” broadband service. It also offers video content, such as a recent clip on the making of artist Pink's latest music video.

But that foray into more mobile content does require more sophisticated business deals between content and television producers and the network.

“I think it gets complex in that the content flows across different screens,” Toffler said. “But if you are creating original content for the wireless world, it's not that difficult unless it works so well that you want to make a movie out of it. Who knows? It hasn't happened yet. I hope we are the first place to be so lucky.”

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