'Simpsons’ Go Mobile


News Corp. is serious about becoming a major player in mobile entertainment, and it will soon demonstrate its ambitions through one of Fox’s most popular comedies.

“We’re heavily invested in unlocking the potential” of the mobile platform, News Corp. president and chief operating officer Peter Chernin told attendees of the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment convention in a keynote address. “We want to sell content to 100% of your customers.”

To that end, he announced that Fox will offer content for cell phones based on the TV series The Simpsons. That animated show, now entering its 18th season, generates 10 billion impressions a year around the world, through broadcast and syndicated television.

With that awareness, the series is a perfect match for global cellular distribution, Chernin said. It also lends itself to distribution in “short bursts,” he added.

The content will be released later this year, he said, but the form and length is to be determined. The show’s executive producer, James L. Brooks, was headed for the trade-show floor after the Chernin speech, and he said the production team has just begun talks on the form of the mobile content. But he did say it won’t be 22-minute episodes — the length available via broadcast.

Chernin said News Corp. is combining the efforts of its own Fox Mobile Entertainment with its recent acquisition announced during the show: mobile video producer Jamba. That deal gives Fox access to 1 billion customers worldwide. News Corp. is also working with another of its recent acquisitions, MySpace, to come up with a mobile platform that attracts the social-networking site’s 100 million market.

Chernin promised News Corp. will “market the hell” out of any content it creates.

Fox also wants to use its expertise to grow the mobile TV segment, now estimated at 4% of cell phone users. An increase of that base to 20% would create a $5 billion business, Chernin estimated.

If providers could sell mobile data services to 20% of the marketplace, that would add another $5 billion, while a 20% increase in the sale of ring tones, at $2 per download, would generate another $1 billion increment in revenue.

Nevertheless, Chernin criticized the marketing and delivery of current content. Finding current video is “a joke,” with most consumers frustrated that they can’t find the content, or if they do, they find they can’t access it because there are no standard delivery platforms. Today’s marketing message touts availability, but discussion on content is “confusing, cheesy and just bad,” he said.

“We haven’t done enough to make consumers want out product,” he said. Chernin opined that with nurturing, mobile “could be one of the great platforms — comparable to TV and the Internet.”