Madonna heads to mobile phones

Verizon, Vodafone to simulcast live performance

DENVER -- Wireless operators Verizon Wireless and Vodafone have teamed up to simulcast a Madonna performance live to mobile phones on their respective networks. It's considered the first live simulcast across multiple wireless networks.

Madonna will perform songs from her new "Hard Candy" album Wednesday night at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, which Control Room is broadcasting live on the MSN Internet network. The two wireless operators will air four songs from that performance as it happens.

Verizon also is giving away tickets to the limited-seating event (the venue holds about 3,000). The operator tapped producer Timbaland and collaborator Justin Timberlake to create a remix of the lead single "4 Minutes." Any Verizon subscriber who buys the song, ringtone or ringback tone becomes eligible to win free tickets.

Verizon will air the live event exclusively in the U.S., while Vodafone will air it in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Additionally, fans can access the performance after the fact for 30 days via the Verizon VCast Performances video channel.

This is the latest in a handful of live broadcasts made available on mobile phones in recent years. It's not yet clear what the advantage of doing so is outside of the media attention gained for engaging in the relatively rare process.

Streaming live video is incredibly bandwidth-intensive for mobile operators, hence the limitation to four songs. It's also of questionable value to subscribers, given the small screens of most mobiles. Archived live performances have proved popular after the fact, but the need to see a live stream from the phone is of lesser demand considering the full concert can be streamed online via the Control Room/MSN partnership.