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CW's Shows Go Mobile

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NEW YORK The CW is the latest TV network to add a mobile video component, following networks like NBC and CBS. Its wireless application protocol (WAP) site, wap.cwtv.com, was placed in a beta test for mobile video in the beginning of August and is expected to officially launch as the fall season gets under way.

"We are now moving into mobile the way people were moving into online a couple of years ago," said Rick Haskins, evp, marketing and brand strategy at The CW. Haskins noted that as technology has become available, the network is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Warner Bros. and CBS Corp. each have a 50 percent stake in The CW, so Jeff Sellinger, who is evp, general manager of CBS Mobile, runs wap.cwtv.com. CBS Mobile launched its mobile video component for sports and news approximately four months ago.

The CW offering includes full episodes and short clips of all its shows, including America's Next Top Model and Gossip Girl. The only exception is Smallville, due to a contractual syndication agreement that precludes the network from incorporating it into the lineup.

Sellinger explained the timing of the move by pointing to "fairly rapid" growth in mobile video and the fact that newer handset devices, like the iPhone, are making it even more prevalent -- "and there's more devices like that coming. Just as people access video on the Internet, they'll access video on their phones."

Haskins emphasized that there's a greater push into the medium because viewers are generating more interest in it. "I think we believe it will be successful because we know that our younger-skewing viewers tend to be very tech- and multi-platform savvy."

"I think The CW is the right property to try this out because its audience does skew younger. Their target audience is probably more used to viewing content on their phone than some of the other networks," said Kerry Perse, director of digital relationship marketing at Horizon Interactive, a division of Horizon Media. "It's not such a stretch to watch an episode, but I think it depends on the quality of the video."

CBS Mobile's Sellinger pointed out that the network has "chapterized" full episodes of shows in order to adapt to how much time people tend to spend with their phones to view content. Episodes run between two to five minutes. Sellinger noted there is no fixed length in order to integrate natural breaks within the content to provide flow within the narrative of the story line.

For John Zamoiski, co-CEO of branded entertainment company Norm Marshall Associates, how a network produces the end product specifically for mobile is critical. "Because the screen is so small, it can diminish the value of the entertainment," he cautioned.

On the advertising front, The CW's Haskins said its ad sales team has just begun to shop the product in the marketplace. The opportunities "are not unlike its Web site," he said, which include banner ads and pre-rolls.

CBS Mobile's Sellinger notes that the CBS WAP site has generated interest from Staples, Snickers, Home Depot and Radisson, among others, with similar expectations for The CW. He conceded that mobile video advertising is growing slowly, however.

Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research, believes the successful model will be ad based in the future. "Consumers pay for TV service at home, but a lot of it is still commercially supported and that's the model that most people are comfortable with," he said. "It's only a subset of the market that is willing to pay a premium to get video services."