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Cel phones ringing up big business

Virtanen urges NATPE atendees to go wireless

LAS VEGAS–An afternoon panel on mobile phone content may have been sparsely attended as the NATPE confab got underway Tuesday in Sin City, but it was one of the few sessions where the potential for a multi-billion dollar market was talked about.

According to Finnish TV producer and wireless pioneer Teemu Virtanen, all sides of the entertainment biz should start thinking wireless. He said that ringtones produced for mobile phone users alone would be a $33 billion biz by 2008.

Virtanen left his gig as host of “Hollywood Express,” Finland’s version of “Entertainment Tonight,” in 2000 to co-found Starcut with Helsinki-based film producer Juha Tiihonen. Company to secure licensing deals and produce content for mobile phones.

Starcut inked mobile phone deals with NBC Universal for “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.” In 2002, Starcut entered into a multi-year deal with Lucasfilm and Nokia to feature the Star Wars movies in the wireless world.

TV studios also are beginning to discover the revenue possibilities of mobile phones; a trend Virtanen says will only grow. As well as new series, he urged studios to repurpose old TV shows for wireless.