Telco to offer pics via cell phones

Movies have now reached the smallest screen of them all.

In a development that would have seemed like the punchline of a joke not too long ago, Sprint on Tuesday launched a service offering movies on a pay-per-view basis for viewing on cell phones.

Though obscure and public-domain films have been available for mobile devices before, move marks the first time major studios have offered their pics for mobile.

Disney, Sony, Universal and Lionsgate are all aboard, offering a handful of pics in the PPV window for $3.99-$5.99 each. A user can watch a film as much as he wants in a 24-hour to one-week period, depending on the film, and pause it in between viewings and restart at the same place the next time he opens his phone.

Mobile media company MSpot is powering the Sprint Movies service. MSpot is talking to other mobile carriers about launching pay-per-view films and is in negotiations with the other major studios to add their titles.

Revenue for each rental is split among Sprint, MSpot and the studio.

At launch, Sprint Movies has 45 films, most of which are older library titles. New pics include “Eight Below,” “Ultraviolet” and “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.”

Though a few services offering studio films on mobile devices have launched overseas and TV clips are already available, Sprint Movies will be the first test of American consumers’ interest in paying to watch studio films on cell phones.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said MSpot CEO Daren Tsui. “Our subscription service (for classic films) has been growing well since launching in December, which is why Sprint and the studios decided to take this step. But we don’t expect it to be huge right away. We’re just at the very beginning.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more