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SPRINT TUNES IN MSPOT RADIO

Rumors of the radio star's demise at the hands of video may have been greatly exaggerated — last week, Sprint PCS announced the launch of MSpot Radio, a new streaming radio service offered in conjunction with mobile multimedia start-up MSpot. Delivering Sprint PCS Vision Multimedia Services subscribers 13 channels of music, news and talk for $5.95 per month, MSpot Radio will take aim not only at rival mobile entertainment services like video initiatives MobiTV and Verizon Wireless's Vcast, but also at the booming satellite radio market led by providers XM and Sirius.

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“MSpot Radio is like a satellite service with talk, sports, news, weather and music,” said MSpot CEO Daren Tsui, who co-founded the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company in November 2004. “It's got everything.”

MSpot Radio's initial broadcasting slate includes eight different commercial-free music formats, including pop, hip-hop and classic rock. The company currently programs its own music playlists, while its news and information channels employ content from sources such as National Public Radio, AccuWeather and the Sporting News.

“We have a combination of live broadcasting and on-demand formats,” Tsui said. “We predict that many users will have 10 minutes between meetings, for example, and they're going to want specific information. Unlike typical satellite or FM radio, where you have to wade through all the other stuff before you come to the newscast, you can just go through our system and figure out exactly what you want to listen to.”

MSpot Radio's debut follows hot on the heels of XM Satellite Radio's announcement that it added 540,000 new subscribers in the first quarter, pushing the satellite radio industry's total subscriber count past the 5 million mark in less than three-and-a-half years of existence — dramatic growth given that subscribers pay roughly $100 per year for a broadcasting medium they previously enjoyed for free, albeit with frequent commercial interruptions.

“Satellite radio has proven consumers are willing to pay for content they care about,” Tsui said. “XM and Sirius are huge companies, and we're just a start-up, but we can offer very unique interactive and on-demand services, which satellite and FM can't do no matter how hard they try. The type of service we offer does not offer a long-term commitment — if you sign up with satellite radio, it's a one-year commitment, but with us, if you try it for a month and don't like it, you just cancel it. Also, you don't have to buy a dedicated device for my service — presumably you have a cell phone already, so you don't have to spend the extra $200.”

According to Dale Knoop, product manager for Sprint PCS Vision Multimedia Services, MSpot Radio fits comfortably alongside the carrier's existing mobile entertainment products, such as MobiTV.

“There's a desire for all things music on people's phones, and at the time we started talking to MSpot, we only had one channel delivering this kind of content,” Knoop said. “This is a product that cuts across a lot of different demographics. We knew as we programmed the service there needed to be something for everyone, and I think we've done a good job of that.”

According to Tsui, MSpot Radio will soon offer subscribers CD cover art, liner notes and reviews, as well as ringtones. Future plans also include a video product.

“We are a mobile entertainment company, and that means audio and video,” he said.

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In advance of the upcoming Broadband Wireless World 2005 event, wireless ISP NextWeb expands its network presence in Los Angeles. See our Web site for details.
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