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September 11, 2006

Sprint Begins PPV VOD Service for Mobile Phones

One major cross-platform development that I didn't mention last week was the announcement by Sprint of the formation of Sprint Movies, a service for its mobile users to purchase feature-length films through a "pay-per-view" on demand service.

The films will be available from Buena Vista, Lions Gate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Universal Pictures, with a total of more than 45 titles, available at between $3.99 and $5.99 apiece. And, according to the press release, "Customers can view the movie for unlimited times within a set period, which varies between 24 hours and one week depending on the title. In addition, 24-hour titles include the option of purchasing up to two 24-hour viewing extensions at the rate of $.99."

The films must be watched while the user is in range of Sprint's network and is only available on phones that have the capabilities to show the films, and all of the films have been edited to meet TV-14 standards, one decision that is likely to cause an uproar with some film enthusiasts who won't be crazy about the TV-14 version of Scarface (one of the films available on Sprint's PPV system).

The press release also says, "Sprint Movies features many of the same conveniences as a DVD player. A movie can be seen in its entirety all at once, or it can be divided into chapters and watched over time. Customers can play, pause and skip forward or backward to different chapters. They can also resume a movie at the exact point where it was last shut down."

Sprint began the process of offering movies through mSpot Movies in December 2005, but the new Sprint Movies system differs in that it is VOD, while mSpot Movies is a subscription service with a fee of $6.95 a month and content that viewers can watch at any time for no additional fee.

The crossplatform potential of something like this is obvious, since films can now be redistributed via mobile phones through a VOD basis, but I am not yet quite sure how easily the content can be repurposed. In the coming months, we'll see the initial "gee whiz"-ness of the technology wear off and start to see how genuinely interested people are in watching content on their mobile phones, especially of feature length. What I predict will be found is an opportunity to begin teasing out what types of films people are willing to watch on their mobile phones and what types of content does not play well on the (really) small screen.

And, while cross-platform content is interesting, the technology also holds strong potential for transmedia storytelling, something that companies have not yet even scratched the surface of.

Thanks to fellow C3 analyst Geoffrey Long for passing this along.

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