July 18, 2007
NBCU Strikes Deal with Alltel, as the Company Tries to Expand Mobile Reach

Back in March, I wrote about the launch of plans for NBC Universal's mobile plan on Verizon and MobiTV. The deal included television shows from not just NBC but also from USA, Sci Fi, Bravo, Telemundo, and mun2, in addition to CNBC.

Now the network has signed yet another mobile deal to extent the reach of its content into new realms, this time with mobile service provider Alltel. NBC will provide 11 VOD channels, in addition to Web sites, ringtones, wallpapers, and more, featuring content from NBC, Sci Fi, Bravo and the USA Network.

What I like most about NBCU's approach here is that, even as the company has to strike deals individually with various service providers, the plan seems to be to stretch their content offerings across a variety of services, rather than rely on some exclusive partnership with just Verizon or Alltel.

Excerpts from the press release and a link to the full release are available on the Inside Cable News blog.

I haven't been making my feelings on gated content quiet for a while. I am glad to see media properties and companies enter into increasing numbers of transmedia deals, even if they are primarily only used for the cross-platform distribution of extant content, but I am troubled by what it means for fans and consumers to have those deals locked under gated-content agreements.

However, since the mobile media space is dominated by service providers in the U.S. market, there is no approach that can be taken to get content across multiple providers at this point other than the one taken by NBCU...striking a variety of deals, provider-by-provider.

As I've written about before, one way to avoid angering your fan base in the wake of these exclusive deals is to avoid giving away significant new content through these mobile channels as long as their locked to the confines of particular services, such as I pointed out with WWE's content.

However, that limits what can be done with mobile aside from the novelty and the ability to watch something in transit. These service-provider gates have to be overcome, even if it's through the elbow grease of striking a variety of deals as NBCU is, in order to truly be able to do interesting new things in the mobile environment without angering fans stuck with a cell phone service you aren't offering your new exclusive content on.

See my post regarding gated content from earlier this month.