ROBBIE WILLIAMS VIDEO TO DEBUT ON CELL PHONES

EMI, U.K.’s Hutchinson Whampoa Strike One-Week Exclusivity Deal
It had to happen sometime. EMI has made a deal with U.K. cell phone company Hutchinson Whampoa, operator of network 3, a third-generation wireless network, for a one-week exclusive on the next Robbie Williams video, “Misunderstood,” meaning fans will be able to see it on their phones before they see it on TV. Subscribers to the network 3 service will be able to stream or download and store the video along with two behind-the-scenes clips.

The move follows EMI’s announcement that Robbie Willams’ Greatest Hits album will be made available on a postage stamp-sized cell phone memory card through U.K. phone retailer Mobile Phone Warehouse. EMI is said to be talking with Mobile Phone Warehouse about releasing other albums on memory cards.

Financial details of the network 3 deal aren’t available, but subscribers will be charged ₤1.50 (about $2.75) to view the Williams video. Network 3 has 1.2 million subscribers, according to the Financial Times.

The deal comes as cell phone companies are increasingly looking to music as a “content driver” for their hardware and networks, and music companies are looking at cell phones as a logical next step in digital distribution. Universal Music Group’s Black Eyed Peas, for example, has made a deal with T-Mobile to provide exclusive content, including a video, wallpaper and ringtones, for the network’s Motorola phones.

EMI recently told its investors that it was pursuing a “platform neutral” strategy and that the goal was to have the company’s music available “any time, any place, anywhere,”—a distant echo of former MP3.com chief Michael Robertson’s mantra of “what you want, when you want it.”

Music downloading on cell phones has been expected for a long time, but hasn’t yet made significant inroads in the U.S., largely because wireless networks here aren’t yet fast enough to make large file downloads practical. Song and video downloads are expected to become mainstream first in Asia and Europe, where the networks are faster and handsets more sophisticated, respectively.
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