Disney dials mobile deals

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NEW YORK -- Coinciding with the upfront presentation of its ABC and ESPN networks here Tuesday, the Walt Disney Co. announced a pair of mobile deals. One makes Disney-ABC Television Group content available to Sprint-Nextel Corp. subscribers, and the other sees ESPN, with Verizon Communications, reviving a branded mobile service whose first iteration was axed late last year.

The ABC move marks the first large-scale mobile programming effort by a major broadcast network. Previously, only full-length episodes of CBS' "Jericho" were offered on Sprint phones, with Verizon presenting only short clips and a live option and with shows only available at specific times.

The ESPN arrangement is launching with advertising, while the ABC deal will add advertising in the fall.

The Sprint partnership will make full-length episodes of ABC primetime series including "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "Ugly Betty" and such ABC News programs as "Good Morning America," "World News With Charles Gibson," "Nightline" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" available on the carrier on an on-demand basis as well as on ABC Mobile, a new linear channel that, for now, will only be available on Sprint.

The Disney Channel also has a linear channel on Sprint under the arrangement, and full-length episodes from the kids network including "Hannah Montana," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "Cory in the House" and "Kim Possible" will soon be offered on-demand as well.

All the Disney content on Sprint is available in a package costing $20 a month, with a Disney Channel-only option for $15 per month. The on-demand shows will be available the day after their network airing, with the previous four episodes of the selected series included in the offering.

"We continue to be focused on finding new ways to connect viewers to the content they want and brands they love on the platforms they choose," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of the Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group. "This deal also gives advertisers another platform to reach viewers and associate with our powerful network brands."

With Verizon, ESPN is relaunching its Mobile ESPN service, "retooled and rebranded" as ESPN MVP, as the company put it.

It will present content from the sports network, including "SportsCenter" and "Pardon the Interruption" video clips and highlights as well as options to manage and track fantasy teams, available at no extra cost to Verizon's VCast subscribers.

MVP will have advertising in the form of prerolls and banner ads.

ESPN's first stab at mobile content was canceled in December, after running for a little more than a year, amid meager subscriber numbers and investors calling for the company to discontinue the service. That application was a mobile virtual network operator, a service that uses a cellular phone's network to deliver content to a subscriber base, rather than an add-on to an existing service, like the sports networks juggernaut's new offering.

Ryan Hughes, vp digital content at Verizon, said he's confident that the application will be successful now that his company can take the feature and "pop it right down into the mainstream." Lee Daniels, Verizon vp consumer and product development, called the partnership, which was unveiled in March, a "perfect marriage."
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