June 29, 2005

Quiet Those Tantrums with Mobile Looneys

LOS ANGELES -- Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety are among the perennial animated favorites to be shown on the Looney Tunes and Friends mobile video channel, Warner Bros. Online and Sprint are set to announce Wednesday.

Those classic characters soon will be joined by Scooby-Doo, the Flintstones, the Jetsons and more, says Jim Noonan, Warner Bros. Online senior VP and general manager. The seminal artists whose creations now can be enjoyed on the go include Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Original Looney Tunes shorts created by Warner Bros. Online also will be added to the channel this year.

This is the latest mobile content announcement to reflect what industry observers are calling the pass-back phenomenon. When pushed to the last frayed nerve ending by squalling offspring in the car's back seat, parents desperate for any quieting diversion were handing them a mobile phone displaying just about anything that moved.

Sesame Street became the first major name to address this audience niche in the U.S. when it signed a deal in March with Verizon's VCast service, and a growing trend to address youngsters was noticeable at this year's MIPTV.

Digital Chocolate founder and CEO Trip Hawkins is doing the same thing with interactive entertainment. He has several mobile titles that don't require reading skills, including "DChoc Bubble Ducky" and the more blatantly named "DChoc Babysitter."

How much would adults in a checkout line pay to replace their toddler's screaming with three minutes of blessed silence? Sprint PCS Vision subscribers can receive Looney Tunes and Friends for $4.95 a month, which provides more than 20 videos at any given time.

Analyst group IDC identified mobile children's entertainment as "a potentially strong value proposition" in a June report titled "Bert and Ernie Go Wireless: The Emergence of the Cell Phone as a Wireless Babysitter."

Scott Ellison, IDC program director of wireless and mobile communications, says these initial experiments appear to be proving an early success.

"I have offered my own VCast phone and service to parents of young children at airports and on airplanes, with a near 100% success rate at tears and tantrum avoidance," he says. Parents, he added, had an even more positive reaction.

It's the young at heart as well as the young who love high-quality animation, of course.

"Parents know when they're dealing with a brand like Looney Tunes, they can count on quality content that is safe and appropriate and fun," Noonan says. "But Looney Tunes does have a following that is little older than what you might think. Some of it has to do with familiarity, but some of it also has to do with the sense of humor of the Looney Tunes characters. There is a quality and depth that is not necessarily there in brands that come and go a little quicker."

He adds that animation is well suited for mobile because the length of the episodes allows them to maintain a story arc in just three minutes. People also are so familiar with the characters that the experience is satisfying without the need for explanatory plot lines.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter


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