November 17, 2005

‘Lost’ Deal Hatched for Mobile Phones

By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The mysteries of ABC's "Lost" are about to get bigger -- and smaller.

The Emmy-winning hit is spawning a second series for mobile phones in a deal soon to close with a major U.S. carrier, sources said. About 20 episodes -- each several minutes long -- are being shot next month in Hawaii to hit phones sometime early next year.

The project is not being produced by ABC or series producer Touchstone Television but is under the oversight of "Lost" executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. The Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC and Touchstone, declined comment.

The deal is a fresh example of the broadcast networks' rush to embrace portable media -- but this time with original content. Disney might have triggered the trend with its groundbreaking deal to make episodes of "Lost" and other Disney programming available on the new video iPod.

Titled "Lost Video Diaries," the series will introduce two characters said to be stranded alongside the cast featured on the primetime version. As fans of the series know, not all of the dozens of survivors of the fictional plane crash depicted on the series get screen time. While the story lines of the pair will be new to "Lost" viewers, the events depicted in the primetime version will inform their story lines.

A tie-in connecting broadcast and mobile versions also is being considered.

Verizon has emerged as the likeliest partner for Disney in the deal, given the companies' well-established relationship on several fronts. ABC and Verizon Wireless announced a deal in February to showcase repurposed bits of many of the network's programs for VCast, the company's wireless broadband multimedia service. Verizon already stepped up its ties to Disney this week by including ABC Entertainment among the content contributors to its new Mobile Web 2.0 applications, but those assets are not video.

Pricing on the "Lost" spinoff is unclear. Verizon's VCast makes its video content available for $15 per month, and "Diaries" likely will fall into that window. However, VCast also offers premium original content for 99 cents per episode.

Verizon employs Microsoft's Windows Media Center for its video content, which operates at 15 frames per second.

The phone carrier would have exclusive rights to the new mini-"Lost," which eventually could get an iPod window after that exclusivity expires.

"Lost" isn't the first primetime series to migrate to mobile. That distinction belongs to Fox Broadcasting Co.'s "24," which spawned "mobisodes" this year through 20th Century Fox.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter