A step ahead

China may have overtaken other countries in the number of mobile phones and Star may be reaping the harvest of SMSs in the country, but in the West, media companies and cell operators are already a step ahead.

According to a Reuters report, at least six media companies in the US are toying with new ideas with which they can use wireless to boost their profits and extend their brand reach. Picture displays and replaying of video clips is now de rigeur, networks are now considering live newscasts and whole movies on wireless gadgets.

Going a step further, companies like Disney and Time Warner are thinking of providing full mobile services with help from existing network operators, apart from just providing media content to wireless phones. While the mobile phone market is not growing as fast in the US as in the East and Far East, media companies, experts say, would need to be creative to convince consumers to use their content on phones. Wireless, they say, could also emerge as a potential battleground between cable and phone companies.

Time Warner and cable rival Cox Communications are already looking at wireless services as a potential addition to their TV, wired telephone and high-speed Internet offerings in an effort to compete with bundled packages offered by phone companies. The deadlines are short. Both companies say they are geared for such launches in the coming fiscal. Walt Disney and Fox Entertainment Group are already pushing entertainment and news to phones through pacts with mobile companies. But the Walt Disney Company may even decide to sell its own branded wireless phone service in the United States, using an existing operator's network. The Disney or ESPN brand name could work very well with specific target groups.

Fox currently allows phone users to participate in the American Idol talent hunt via SMS and plans to provide more features. Disney claims that its wireless business is already profitable in markets where it is well established, particularly in Japan where it first started in 2000.

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Wireless - the new Smart Money Spinner

"As a broadcaster with 200 million viewers, we should have the ability to at least control 50 % of all the valued added SMSs sent" - Sumantra Dutta

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