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October 20, 2005

Hello Moto Plus MTV Equals Hip Mobile Video

Courtesy of TechWeb News

Motorola, continuing to recast its brand for a young audience, is partnering with MTV Networks and Comedy Central to produce and distribute a mobile-phone comedy series.

The cellular-phone maker and the entertainment company on Thursday launched a mobile-phone comedy series called "Head and Body." It targets teenagers and young adults, who are expected to eventually become major users of video content.

Wireless carriers, particularly Verizon Wireless and Sprint, have been moving aggressively in the video market, offering drama and comedy series called "mobisodes," music videos, sports, news and other content. It's unusual, however, for a handset maker to get into the video distribution market, one expert said.

"It's interesting that Motorola is doing it," Julie Ask, analyst for JupiterResearch, said.

"Head and Body" is a live-action series of eight short mobisodes that follow the adventures of a character with a detached head, as he tries to meet women, keep fit and "knock over as little as possible," the companies said in a statement. The series will be distributed over the Web through Motorola's Hellomoto site in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Europe. In the United States, MTV Networks's Comedy Central is handling distribution.

Mobile video services overall accounted for only about $53 million in revenue for U.S. wireless carriers last year, according to market researcher In-Stat. That number, however, is projected to quadruple this year to $269 million. By 2009, the market is expected to reach $5.4 billion.

Indeed, among the roughly 200 million people in the U.S. today with mobile phones, about 1 percent watch videos, according to JupiterResearch said. That number is expected to double next year, and the trend is projected to continue upward, although how fast it will climb is a matter of debate, since the service can be expensive. Verizon, for example, charges $15 a month for its VCAST service.

"Certainly there's interest in mobile video, but it's small today," Ask said. "Everybody anticipates that those kinds of (services) will be popular with kids going forward."

Motorola, the world's second largest cellular phone maker, has managed to improve its hipness in the mobile market with the release of the Razr, a stylish phone that's popular among people willing to pay $200 to $300. In February, the Schaumburg, Ill., company unveiled its iRadio service, which allows Internet broadcasters to extend their programming to mobile phones, car radios and other devices.

In aligning with MTV, the Schaumburg, Ill., company is apparently looking to continue building that hip image through entertainment. But it may be awhile before the Internet becomes a strong vehicle for distributing video content to mobile phones. Carriers T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless support such downloads today, but Sprint and Verizon Wireless are still working at supporting such a distribution model, Ask said.

"Motorola may be trying to help jump start the market," Ask said.

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