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Telco gets ‘Personal’

Users now able to download comedy clips to cell phones

BUENOS AIRES — Telecom Personal, Argentina’s No. 2 cell phone carrier, has launched “Personal Stand-Up,” the first short-form TV program developed in Latin America for cellphones.

Users can download to their phones three-minute monologues from five Argentinean comedians, including Pablo Rago, star of last year’s hit “Starsky & Hutch”-like series “Mosca & Smith en el Once.” They pay up to 2.10 pesos (73¢) plus tax per download.

Matias Martin, partner and general producer of Fatto in Casa, the production outfit that created “Stand-Up,” hosts the program.

It is available to users with handsets equipped for TV, an estimated 5%-10% of the company’s nearly 4 million subscribers.

“This is a new medium, a new phenomenon,” says Damian Kirzner, a managing partner of Fatto in Casa. “As the cost of technology and cellphones drop, there will be more options for content. It will make it available to more people.”

This shift, he adds, will spur demand for more “Stand-Ups.” In fact, he has already ordered a second series.

“Stand-Up” is Personal’s latest push into content. Earlier this year, it broadcast an Endemol-produced comic, “DJ Tess,” that played out over phones using MMS picture messaging. Last year it launched the country’s first live TV signal to cellphones with broadcaster/programmer Grupo Clarin’s Artear. It also aired “Epitafio” (Epitaph), an HBO miniseries about a serial killer produced by Argentina’s Pol-ka Prods.

Personal financed “Stand-Up” as a marketing tool to fend off growing competition. Some 14.5 million people had a cellphone by the end of 2004, putting penetration at 37.5% of the population of 36 million.

Media companies see the platform as a fresh way to boost revs. The revenue-sharing model, already used for ringtones, text messaging and other services, gives half to carriers and the rest to be split among developers, software companies and other companies involved.

Rivals, too, are developing content. CTI Movil, a unit of Mexico’s America Movil, is offering its 3.6 million subs Fox’s “24 Conspiracy,” an original live-action series based on Fox’s hit skein “24.” And Telefonica of Spain’s Movistar, the leader with 5.7 million subs, plans to launch series later this year.

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