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MAKING MADE FOR MOBILE: Wireless firms continue push for exclusive content for cellphones

Amp’d Mobile Inc. continued to expand its impressive content portfolio, inking deals with actor Jack Black and “24” producer Howard Gordon to offer original, made-for-mobile programming. The news stands atop a number of similar agreements signed in recent days, which may indicate that made-for-mobile programming is catching steam across the industry.
Amp’d said Black and his production partners will develop a series of comedy shorts based on the group’s “Channel 101,” which offers monthly screenings of amateur comedy clips on the Internet. Like the “Channel 101” site, the MVNO’s comedy offering will allow viewers to decide which comedy programs stay in the lineup and which are cancelled.
Separately, Gordon will oversee a news series to investigate “mysterious sightings from around the world.” The news program will include analysts from experts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, government officials and other analysts. Gordon is executive producer of the Fox hits “24” and “The X Files.”
Amp’d also extended its deal with Donick Cary, the writer behind the series “Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States,” which debuted through Amp’d before being sold to Comedy Central. Cary, whose credits including writing for “The Simpsons” and “Late Show with David Letterman,” has agreed to an exclusive, two-year deal to develop content for Amp’d.
Amp’d continues to tout its success selling mobile content even as some of its competitors struggle to find an audience. The company has blurred the lines between wireless service provider and mobile content developer, racking up deals to offer its exclusive content and user interface abroad. The MVNO boasts more than 100,000 subscribers who pay an average of more than $30 a month for wireless data services.
“When we started Amp’d, we envisioned building the next-generation HBO,” said Amp’d executive Seth Cummings. “The traction we’ve established towards this goal has been phenomenal.”
In other Amp’d news, the start-up mobile virtual network operator announced a partnership with Medio Systems Inc. to deliver a new mobile search application. The offering, which will be available to Amp’d subscribers later this quarter, combines a new user interface with recommendation and personalization technologies for content and information searches.
Meanwhile, wireless entertainment company Flycell Inc. jumped onto the content-creation field, forming a division to develop and produce digital entertainment for both cellphones and the fixed-line Internet. Flycell said its new division inked a deal with Ensemble Development, which is headed by Tony To and Patrick Murray, to produce five scripts that will be used to develop seven three-minute episodes.
Tony To served as co-executive producer for HBO’s “Band of Brothers” miniseries, which was backed Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Ensemble will hire writers for the shows, and Flycell will hold exclusive rights to the scripts.
“This is a great opportunity to explore storytelling in a new medium through material developed specifically for that new medium,” To said. “We’re excited to be working with Flycell and creative, forward-thinking writers interested in this rapidly-expanding field of entertainment.
Finally, wireless technology provider L.M. Ericsson said it will partner with Turner Broadcasting System International to deliver news and programming to mobile phones. The companies plan to offer content from Turner networks including CNN International and Cartoon Network; terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Other companies that have previously announced made-for-mobile efforts include Sprint Nextel Corp., GoTV Networks Inc. and TV networks including Fox and others.

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