Cingular doesn't curb enthusiasm for HBO shows

Wireless provider gets exclusive access to full mobile episodes of series such as "Entourage," "Sex and the City."

HBO is making episodes of series such as "Sex and the City" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" available exclusively on Cingular Wireless' video showcase for mobile phones.

The deal represents the first time any established TV channel has recycled entire episodes for U.S. cell phones, which typically rely on short-form content.

HBO also is cashing in on , creating multiminute original spinoffs of "Entourage" for Cingular. They feature "Entourage" supporting actor Kevin Dillon, who plays Johnny "Drama" Chase, and are created by the series' production team.

Cingular and other U.S. wireless carriers have plenty of branded-content partners in the video space, but the content is strictly programming excerpts, in addition to such nonvideo content as ring tones and wallpaper.

While a flood of media companies have flocked to digital platforms like Apple Computer's iPod and Web giants like Google or Yahoo this year, HBO has put almost no programming in its entirety in these venues so as not to cannibalize its subscription base or DVD window.

The only exception has been new young-skewing series "Dane Cook's Tourgasm," featuring comedian Dane Cook; HBO recently made an episode available on Apple's iTunes service as an experiment, and it promptly became the most downloaded podcast.

Perhaps not coincidentally, "Tourgasm" will be the only current series made available on Cingular Video. Also included are episodes from the first season of "Entourage," but not the current season.

HBO and Cingular first struck a deal in December, in which HBO furnishes Cingular with various content. HBO's Cingular content is available for $4.95 per month on the premium tier, on top of the $14.95 monthly Cingular Video subscription.

Cingular Video won't stream entire episodes in one chunk, but rather offer each HBO episode in segmented "chapters" that can be digested one at a time.

Mobile video is still very much in its infancy in the United States, with varying estimates pegging the subscriber base at slightly more than 2 million, or less than 1 percent of all mobile users. Cingular Video's 3G broadband network is available in only 54 communities in 18 major markets, though it expects to reach most major markets by year's end.

Cingular represents another aftermarket window for HBO original programming. The channel has been successful in finding new platforms for series after their initial runs, including cable syndication and DVD.

HBO has yet to make available any of its programming on broadband, whether on its own site or through its fellow Time Warner subsidiary, AOL.

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