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  1.    #1

    Calling All Videos

    July 18, 2007; Page D1

    Alex Gurevich loves to log on to YouTube to watch music videos and comedy sketches on breaks from work. But the 24-year-old entrepreneur from San Francisco fretted that he couldn't take the fun with him on his cellphone. Mr. Gurevich assumed that signing up for a mobile video service would require a "superexpensive" phone and more than $20 extra a month in fees.

    So he was surprised to find in January a free new mobile video service -- called MyWaves -- that works with his basic Motorola Razr. Now he is glued to it, regularly attempting to amuse his friends with stand-up comedy clips and other videos he has transferred to his phone. "Why would I sign up for another service if I can get this for free?" he says.

    WSJ's Jessica Vascellaro demonstrates how allows users to download or stream short videos to their cellphones without subscribing to a separate mobile video-watching service.
    MyWaves Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., is one of a flurry of start-ups offering new ways to access Internet videos on cellphones, hoping to overcome barriers that have prevented mobile video from taking off in the past.

    For years, cellular carriers including Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. have offered licensed video content for cellphones, such as sports highlights, TV shows and music videos. But these services, which carry monthly subscription fees, offer limited content programmed by the carrier and usually work only on certain phones. Adoption has been slow.

    Now, the new services are taking a different approach, allowing users to view a wider array of Internet video clips -- without locking themselves into a subscription and without purchasing a fancier phone. The services each operate slightly differently, but users can view online videos using any standard video-enabled phone. Videos can be wirelessly downloaded to a handset for viewing later, or sometimes streamed over cellular networks to be watched in real time.

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    The quality of the content is rarely as crisp as users are accustomed to online, and viewing can be limited by the amount of storage on a phone. But the services are generally free, powered by advertising and independent of particular carriers. Some new offerings say they have attracted nearly a million users and are attracting tens of thousands more a day.

    Recently launched MyWaves offers hundreds of thousands of videos from a wide range of sources. Its online library, organized by "channels," includes clips acquired through arrangements with content providers, culled from available podcasts or provided by users themselves. People can access videos through a free application they download to their phones.

    A Motorola phone (top) and an iPhone (bottom) showing how online video can be accessed via MyWaves.
    New York-based Cellfish Media LLC recently launched a new mobile entertainment site that allows users to transfer videos and other media, such as ringtones, to their phones from their computers. The service offers some 10,000 clips, including user-generated videos; content from partners, including, soon, NBC Universal; music videos; and original Cellfish series, like a soap opera involving sock puppets. Users upload videos to an online account, known as a locker. Then to retrieve the video, they can log into a mobile Web page. The video service is largely free, but some premium content like music videos carries a fee of up to $2.50.

    3Guppies Inc. of Seattle doesn't provide content, but rather enables cellphone users to access online videos that they find themselves online. Users can send a video to their phones directly from the page where it resides, by downloading some software to their computers' Internet browser. Or they can upload videos to an online account, prompting the service to send a text message to a cellphone containing a link to the video.

    3Guppies -- which doesn't offer streaming -- transmits videos that are available in a variety of popular digital formats. The service doesn't work with content that media companies protect with proprietary software, such as longer-form TV shows and movies.

    The Small Screen

    These new services are part of a broad sweep of mobile companies trying to get consumers to translate their fanaticism for online video watching to smaller screens. Popular video sites such as Google Inc.'s YouTube have been branching into mobile by creating condensed mobile Web sites and preloading versions of their services on popular handsets like Apple Inc.'s iPhone. Carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. have also been wooing customers with services that offer features like live TV.

    But still the services haven't caught on. Of the nearly seven million users who watch mobile video or TV from their phones every month, the vast majority watch clips sent to them from family or friends, rather than video prepackaged by a carrier, according to research firm M:Metrics Inc. Overall just 3.6% of U.S. cellphone users subscribed to a mobile video service in the first quarter of 2007, up from 1.6% in the year-earlier period, according to market researcher Telephia Inc.

    The new services are trying to open up the mobile video market by targeting a broader range of phones -- at a time when more than 70% of new handsets come with a built-in video player. Instead of charging monthly fees, all three plan to start offering mobile advertising, such as small text ads in the bottom of text-messages or sponsored content from brands.

    Consumers are also voicing concerns about storage. Higher-end cellphones increasingly come with up to 64 megabytes of memory and slots that can accommodate more. But many new phones still come with just four or so megabytes, which may accommodate only a few several-minute-long clips.

    Limits of Streaming

    Streaming video, which is viewed in real time rather than downloaded and stored for later, can be an option -- but only in areas where the network speeds are fast enough. "The experience just isn't really there and there is too much lag time," says Ben Bajarin, a digital media analyst for market-research firm Creative Strategies in Campbell, Calif. But he says that consumption of mobile video content will continue to rise, particularly as media companies create more content designed to entertain users for a few minutes at a time.

    Many of the new companies envision themselves as technology -- not content -- companies and are starting to enable users to transfer other media to their phone like music and phones in the same way they can transfer video.

    "We don't want to be perceived just as a catalog," says Cellfish Media's CEO Fabrice Sergent, who says the company's goal is to become a mobile version of iTunes. "The idea is really to create a seamless experience from the PC to the phone and from the phone to the PC."

    Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at jessica.vascellaro@wsj.com1

    Robert in Austin, Texas
  2. #2  
    awesome; however there is a snag right now

    "Windows Mobile phone support is coming soon, and Palm Treo support is being tested. Blackberry devices do not stream video, but we expect them to add support soon. Stay tuned."
  3. #3  
    Is it true you have to give out your mobile phone number to register? Does the site make money via ads and via selling the mobile numbers collected or licensing them to advertisers for SMS advertising?
    Sprint Treo 600 (since October '03) --> PPC 6700 (exactly 29 days) --> Sprint Treo 600 --> Sprint Treo 700p --> BB Curve 8330.
  4. #4  
    Thank God for the Slingbox.

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