On Tuesday, Disney’s ABC Television group announced it would make available, beginning immediately, episodes of some of its popular programs, including Grey’s Anatomy, Lost and Ugly Betty to video-equipped phones on the Sprint network. The four most recent episodes of programs will be available to subscribers who use participating data-plans at no extra charge. At some point in the future, commercials will be added to the content.
The deal will be the first attempt by major media to offer full-length programming on phones, or over cellular. (Verizon has been offering short form video content).
In a statement that clearly shows Sprint made the deal in an effort to compete with the upcoming Apple iPhone (which can play video’s, including TV shows, downloaded through iTunes) Sprint’s VP for wireless data services said “You won’t need to buy episodes individually or sync to a PC to access this kind of content.”
Personally, I’m still not convinced that consumers will find much more than a novelty factor in having TV available on-demand on their phones. With so called time-shifting devices (Tivo, DVR’s etc) allowing consumers to watch programming at times that suit their schedules and not only when originally broadcast, the market for ultra-portable on-demand services seems small. If i can see a program anytime on a much bigger screen, why watch on my cell phone? It’s hard to believe this kind of service will appeal to anyone beyond the extremely bored, or the die-hard fan.
In a separate, unrelated announcement that was timed to coincide with press releases for Motorola’s next generation phones, Music subscription service Napster announced it was making its music service available on Motorola phones. The companies will share promotional efforts in North America, the UK and Germany. It was not clear how, or if, the partnership would include cellular carriers. In either case, as with the Sprint/Disney announcement, this release is another clear effort to compete against Apple’s upcoming iTunes and iPhone combination.