MSNBC on Wednesday launched in beta an ad-supported mobile service for delivering news stories, pictures and video to cellular phones.
Microsoft Corp., which owns a portion of MSNBC along with the NBC network, has signed up as the exclusive advertising sponsor for the launch of the new service, which is powered by technology from Action Engine Corp.
In announcing the service at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, Nev., MSNBC said the service was as much a learning experience as an expansion of its market to the mobile arena.
"The consumer research we collect from this beta launch will give us valuable insight on how to effectively migrate advertising-supported content from computer to mobile device," Catherine Captain, vice president of marketing for MSNBC.com, said in a statement.
In using the service, consumers will receive video and banner advertisements. At the same time, MSNBC will solicit consumer feedback, and gauge interest from advertisers and wireless operators to determine a business model, the company said.
Mobile video has yet to catch on with wireless subscribers, due in part to the high prices charged by carriers. As of February, 28 percent of all mobile phones were capable of playing digital video, but only 1 percent of subscribers had actually signed up for the service, according to The NPD Group.
Many consumers balk at the current average rate of $10.70 a month, preferring a price range of between $6.50 and $8.50, the researcher said. However, in a bit of good news for MSNBC, 77 percent of current video subscribers and 69 percent of those who intend to subscribe are interested in watching live TV.
The MSNBC service offers top headlines in news, business, entertainment, technology, sports and health. In addition, slideshows of "the week in pictures" will be available along with video from "The Today Show" and other NBC News programs. Subscribers will be able to save news articles in a folder for later reading.
People can download the service over the Web through a special MSNBC site. The service requires consumers to have a data plan with a wireless carrier and an Internet-enabled phone. The offerings will initially run only on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, but MSNBC intends to support Java- and BREW-powered devices in the future.