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Ericsson Lifts Lid on Multimedia

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is set to unveil its multimedia strategy at the 3GSM show in Barcelona next week, and gave a glimpse Monday of how it aims to address carriers' entertainment needs with news of a global mobile content deal.

The vendor's new Multimedia business unit, formed when the Swedish giant revamped its operations in October last year, has struck a partnership to develop Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s content for mobile multimedia services. (See Ericsson Signs Turner Deal and Ericsson Revamps.)

The initial product, based on Turner's CNN International content, will be a data and video service called CNN Mobile. Ericsson will also develop Turner's Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programming for mobile applications.

CNN Mobile, which will be showcased at 3GSM, is a WAP-based application that includes breaking news alerts and an hourly three-minute video news update, called World News Now. The service, if adopted by any carriers, will be available for free to mobile users that subscribe to data content bundles. It will be available initially in Europe and Latin America using any mobile browser, or via mobile operator portals where Turner already has a relationship in place.

"These services can be viewed easily and quickly, and if you don't have a data bundle with a mobile operator, it's not going to cost you a lot of money," says Casey Harwood, senior vice president of digital media at Turner Broadcasting.

Turner has already struck content deals with more than 100 operators in Europe. But the partnership with Ericsson will take its mobile product "to the next level," says Harwood. "We're rethinking how we produce content for the mobile phone. And this is a truly comprehensive service."

The Turner partnership signals a new business model for Ericsson, as it will act as a content broker between Turner and mobile service providers. Ericsson, though, says the majority of its multimedia business will continue to be with operators, not media companies.

Jan Wareby, senior vice president and head of multimedia at Ericsson, says his unit will "mobilize Turner's content worldwide" and will host the mobile applications for Turner, as well as provide content management. (See Ericsson Names Multimedia Chief.)

But while the Ericsson/Turner relationship is interesting from an industry relationship perspective, it's not adding much for end-users, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Adi Kishore. He says all content owners are looking at mobile as a channel, and this deal is noteworthy because of its global scale. But, adds Kishore, the partnership, while interesting, isn't breaking any new ground in terms of the end product. "The fact that it's a formal, global agreement for distribution is relatively new and unique, but from a consumer point of view they don't seem to be offering anything revolutionary."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading

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