Mobilizing to entertain you

H'w'd and mobile outfits come together at CTIA confab

NEW YORK — The entertainment and mobile industries will be courting each other at the CTIA wireless confab this week.

In a keynote he will give Thursday, Van Toffler, prexy of MTV Networks Music/Logo Group, will boast that content from MTV nets is now receiving 2.5 million monthly downloads to mobile devices — and that original mobile content is a linchpin of the division’s strategy.

“If we could have the next “Newlyweds” exclusively on mobile, we’d do it,” Toffler told Daily Variety, speaking about his message at the confab. “The next Steven Spielberg is going to develop for mobile.”

Company will also concentrate on original clips like the net’s famed short films, or “artbreaks,” of the early 1980s. Net will pitch the tech-heavy crowd at the confab on short-film ideas it already has trotted out globally, such as soap-opera mobisodes from Korea, as well as an animated skein called “Head and Body” and a VH-1 music vid show called “Dingo Ate My Video.”

“Mobile takes us back to our roots,” Toffler said. “Shame on us if we don’t achieve creativity with wireless.”

Hollywood and mobile outfits are coming closer together in other ways. At the conference, ICM and mobile startup Zingy will announce a pact under which the tenpercentery will rep Zingy in selling original entertainment to nets.

Zingy, which helped turn ringtones into a bona fide biz and recently signed Bernie Mac for mobile video deal, is developing two pilots for mobile that it will sell to nets under a shingle called Zingy Originals. Zingy CEO Andy Volanakis said his company hopes to “utilize mobile as a launch platform for original intellectual property.”

Agencies, too, have recently been seeking content they can develop for new platforms.

A host of programming announcements will also be made at the show: Spike will announce it has reupped its deal with mobile operator Amp’d for its Ultimate Fighting Championship package. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen will launch content on mobile via startup Airborne Entertainment. And a major sports league will announce details of a sweeping mobile deal.

Confab, which runs Wednesday through Friday, will also feature execs from BET and Time Warner Cable as speakers.

But the courtship dance will also be a cautious one. For all the metrics about free-spending teens and the popularity of the device, the nets and entertainment companies are privately leery. They don’t want to get too close to one carrier. And spending money on a programming gamble that strikes some as convoluted — original content for a phone? — could turn into a bubble. Even broadband efforts, one exec pointed out, has resulted in millions more users but not always a steady amount of revenue.

And getting the right pricing model — not to mention the right mix of content — is going to be trickier. “Everyone’s going to get it wrong for a great while,” Toffler said.

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