Samsung prays for Rain on Olympic Green
Korean pop star to help push mobile TVClick for more Beijing Olympics news
UPDATED: 12:30 a.m. ET, Aug. 21
BEIJING -- Samsung, Korea's handset leader and the Beijing Olympics' sole mobile handset sponsor, will try to tap a nonsports Asian celebrity to help push its products, including mobile TV, into the closely guarded Chinese media marketplace.
Jung Ji-hoon, the actor and Pan-Asian pop idol better know as Rain, will make an appearance Aug. 21 at the Olympic Rendezvous @ Samsung pavilion, Samsung spokespeople said Tuesday.
Whereas other, mostly Western official Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Adidas have seen fewer guests to the Olympic Green than hoped for, Samsung claimed visitor No. 500,000 on Sunday, on the Games' ninth day.
Jung won't sing his Olympic song "Anydream" -- named for Samsung's Anycall service here -- but the company is expecting a mob of young fans. The handset already prevalent in Korea also functions in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, all on different standards requiring different chip sets.
Retailing in Korea for about $450, the Samsung P960 pulls down content from SK Telecom's TU Media for a subscription fee, or offers user-viewers a lesser package from a terrestrial signal for free.
"This is a handset and service that's great for ongoing events like the Olympics," said Kim Piljun, Samsung Electronics assistant manager for mobile device marketing.
Korea initiated the service in 2005, and Samsung has sold at least 100 million units carrying the satellite chip set. Kim said the free terrestrial service chip phone has sold multiples of that.
In price-sensitive China, which looks to Korea for pop culture leaders like Rain, a Samsung phone would seem a natural seller. He'll be in Beijing promoting a "Rain phone," one big on music-playing features.
But Samsung's local partner for the service, China Mobile, another Olympics sponsor, has yet to secure approval for the commercialization of mobile TV. The two companies are working together to lobby China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television for a license.
For now, the mobile TV handsets Samsung displays in its Olympic pavilion are just a glimpse of the possible future when Beijing loosens its control over who's allowed to broadcast what, when.
Samsung's more immediate and real -- though still nontransactional -- connection to the Games can be seen in the 15,000 Wireless Olympic Works phones it gave to members of the media, Beijing Games organizers and the International Olympic Committee members.
The phones use China's domestically developed 3G standard, TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous code division multiple access).
The WOW phones provide, in English and Chinese, up-to-date medals standings, Olympics news from Web portal Sohu.com and still photo highlights.
Both products, Kim said, are the result of a long relationship with China built up by Samsung China president Park Keun-hee, the man who brought two factories to China in the early 1990s.
"We've done a lot here and are now are just ready to do more," Kim said.