Sprint Nextel to carry ABC TV programmes

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Walt Disney’s ABC television network has struck a deal with Sprint Nextel, the mobile phone network, to make its most popular programmes, such as Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives available on an on-demand basis.

Although mobile carriers have experimented with video content before, the Sprint-ABC deal is the first time a TV network has signed a multi-series deal with a mobile carrier.

The programmes will be available on Sprint handsets the day after their television premiere, with customers able to access the four most recently televised episodes of each series.

The ABC content will come in two forms: on demand or via three “linear” mobile channels, which will stream scheduled programming throughout each day. The deal also includes Disney Channel content and ABC news programming.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC television group, said the deal was the company’s “first-ever, multi-brand wireless offering”.

Disney-ABC wanted to find “new ways to connect viewers to the content they want and brands they love on the platforms they choose. This deal not only provides new viewing opportunities for consumers, but also gives advertisers another platform to reach viewers.”

Sprint said it would “proceed cautiously” regarding advertising, partly because mobile video is such a nascent technology. Advertising would have to be relevant to the customers watching the programming, said Alana Mueller, director of wireless data and marketing. “Customers are accepting [mobile advertising] but we want it to appeal to them because [a mobile phone] is a very personal device,” she said.

The deal follows ABC’s experiment last year when it streamed full-length versions of its programmes on its web site. Rival US networks followed ABC when it emerged that that web streaming did not affect television ratings for the programmes.

Mobile represents an additional and much coveted source of advertising revenue for content owners. ABC will sell advertising slots for its mobile programming, which it said was “in order to provide customers with the most variety of content at the least cost to them”.

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