Sprint has launched the first pay-per-view full length movie service for mobile phones in the U.S.
The service, Sprint Movies, offers titles from Buena Vista VOD, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Universal Pictures.
Downloading software to the cellular phone gives consumers access to 45 titles, including "National Treasure," "Spider-Man 2" and "Scarface." The service, powered by mSpot, will oversee video production and ongoing operations of the service.
Consumers have an option to view the movie in its entirety, divide it into chapters to watch over time, pause, rewind, and skip forward. "Because the movie is streamed and not cached in the phone, there isn't a way to copy the movie," Alana Muller, Sprint director of entertainment product marketing said Wednesday.
"We're not looking for this service to replace the big screen TV in the home, but it does enable consumers to take entertainment on the go," Muller said.
Although the technology opens new possibilities, clearing the rights to first run movies remains an issue, Muller added.
Sprint Movies cost between $3.99 and $5.99 each. Customers can view the movie for unlimited times for between 24 hours and one week, depending on the title. The titles that require viewing within 24 hours include the option to purchase up to two 24-hour viewing extensions at the rate of $.99.
The service adds to Sprint offers of more than 50 TV channels, such as MTV, ABC News, and Weather Channel, competing with Verizon VCast, whose subscribers, for example, can watch CBS News anytime on their wireless phones.
Soleil " Sur Terre Research senior telecom analyst Todd Rethemeier can't imagine consumers will want to sit down and watch a two hour movie on a screen that's 2-inches big. "I can see where you might want to watch a new or video clip for one- or two-minutes when they have five or 10 minutes to kills," he said. "I would also expect that battery life is an issue. From my experience using video on the phone uses battery life quickly."
The news follows ESPN's announcement last week to broadcast live college football games over Sprint phones, which Rethemeier thinks has more appeal then streaming movies. "You might want to sit and watch a college football game on your phone if you're a hardcore fan," he said. "If they make college hockey games available on the phone I would sit and watch them."
Rethemeier said the service will appeal to a very small customer base, so small it won't make any difference in the big picture for the company or impact on stock price.
Although Mark Lorion, director at analytics software company Spotfire Inc., finds the ability to stream full-length movies interesting, he has reservations that the battery life on the phone can support a communications and an entertainment device.
"I travel about every other week, and take with me on my iPod either a TV program or video segment from iTunes, but I'm not sure if I could watch an entire movie on my cell phone," Lorion said. "The problem with the iPod, and I suspect with the cell phone too, is battery life. I can't watch more than an hour of video on my iPod."
The FUSIC cellular phone from LG supports the service. Battery life ranges between 4.5 hours and 7.4 hours of talk time, which Sprint claims is "roughly equivalent" to data use.