Friday, August 03, 2007

78: Sprint



DROPPING DIME...Talking about the concept of "no snitching" has become a pastime for the mainstream media, so it was only a matter of time Hollywood addressed the issue. Word is Carl Franklin has just signed on to direct Snitch, a thriller for New Line Cinema inspired by true events chronicled in a PBS "Frontline" documentary. In the film version a father goes undercover in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal. No stars attached just yet. But rest assured, we'll let you know when more of this project comes together.

...Thought you had your fill of Al Sharpton? Well, his radio talk show, " Keeping It Real," a Syndication One News/Talk Radio Network production, will now air on XM Satellite Radio as will two other Radio One shows--"The 2 Live Stews," a sports show, and "The Warren Ballentine Show" beginning Aug. 13. But many aren't too happy about these developments. In order to make room for the Radio One lineup, XM had to cancel a talk show many considered important in the Black community hosted by outspoken Black activist Mark Thompson (aka The Social Justice Gatekeeper). Some critics say Lee Michaels, the new Program Director for XM The Power, has been dismantling the only national African-American Talk Channel. And loyal Thompson listeners have started a campaign to boycott the replacement shows. We'll keep you updated as the story progresses. But it always seems Sharpton just knows the magic formula to get what he wants no matter what the expense. But the question is, just when did Sharpton get elected a spokesperson for all Blacks and how did he amass such sway? Please tell us when this voting day took place because obviously we missed it.

WHO'S BEEN TALKING? ...This just in: Filmmaker/writer Topper Carew ("Martin") says his production company, Urban Neo, will release a documentary film about blues music great Howlin' Wolf (aka The Wolf). Be on the look out for more movie details.

FAMILY MATTERS...Getting your grown man--or woman--takes on a new meaning when people check out a new segment producer Matt Laumb is working on for MTV's "True Life." It is about young people (ages 16-22) who are the primary caregivers for their siblings and/or provide the main source of income for their families. Says Laumb, "Although this is not an uncommon situation for young people to be in, it's not very frequently represented in the media; we want to see how they attempt to balance the demands of school and social life with the often hidden struggle to make ends meet and maintain stable families." Wouldn't it be nice to see serious-minded programming like "True Life" on BET instead tired shows like "S.O.B."?

FOR THE KIDDIES...Filmmakers Rich Heape and Yohei Suzuki are set to present two unique screenings and discussions--Black Indians: An American Story (Heape; narrated by James Earl Jones) and Our Pride: The Spirits of Black Japanese in Georgia (Suzuki) at Urban Film & Discussion Series Multi-Cultural Program, Aug. 9 at DC's E Street Cinema. For details,

GIVING BACK...Actor Chris Tucker and rapper/actor Ludacris are putting their money where their mouth is. The pair are sponsoring an event benefiting children with special needs, says De Borah Pryor, who just came on board the Special Needs Network ( as Executive Director. The event, The Second Annual Back-To-School Community Connections, happens Aug. 26 at the Harry A. Meirs center, Inglewood, CA. For details, call 323-295-8358.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Science and Technology Council have entered a three-year partnership with the Library of Congress (LOC) to preserve digital content, including movies. The Academy joins seven other private organizations in the LOC's "Preserving Creative America" initiative. Digital content, especially raw footage shot on digital cameras, has been in danger of being lost forever.


Over the next several weeks, The A-List will be looking at various mobile phone companies' entertainment content and just what they have to offer for Urban Hollywood. With each installment, we'll let you know the real deal on just whose products meet the hype and whose fall short. Ready? Here we go...


Technology is moving at such a rapid rate, it's changing not only the way we live and work, but also the way we play and are entertained. Especially in the movie/video arena. Unlike before, we are now able to view full-length television shows and movies on the same device we make calls to friends and loved ones. With this advent, cell phone companies are clamoring to bring the best and latest phones and content to the average person.

Like most cell phone companies, Sprint aims for that certain market to put them ahead and on top of the game. The UpStage phone (see review below) has a certain cache associated with it that will make it more interesting for a younger demographic than a standard candy bar phone.

But its not just the hardware Sprint is concerned with. Creating content, deciding who they will work with, and other details is a process Sprint painstakingly go through piece by piece with the customer in mind. "We have been hit up by companies such as William Morris and Creative Artist who represent actors, musicians, etc, who have properties that they are developing or thinking of developing that they are looking for another channel for, not necessarily a traditional channel, but they are looking specifically for mobile." says Jeff Luther (pictured), Director of Product Management for Entertainment Services with Sprint. "It's interesting because these people are starting to think of mobile as its own channel. They are thinking of the phone itself as a primary channel. So I think that bodes very well for the future of mobile video."

On that end, Sprint has just launched a Muziq LG Phone. "One of the cool functions on the phone is when you go to the camcorder function, it gives you the choice of a short or long video. The long video can be as long as the storage capability on the phone." So, if you have a phone with lots of storage, you create a full-length, made-for-mobile content piece.

One of the things that Sprint does that's a little different than the other companies is that TV takes up a lot of their network bandwidth. "You get five TV channels and in addition of that, you get NFL Mobile because of the sponsorship we have there," says Luther. "Users also get something we call 'Sprint Power View.' It's made-for-mobile content--entertainment news, concerts, or whatever. Most of it's short, 3-5 minutes long."

As for the content that is already available, Luther says that Sprint's task is two-fold. "We have a dual path," he explains. "We have one path which I'll call the traditional television route, which is to deal with the ABCs, the CBSs and NBCs, etc. Property that are very well known to the customer. For instance, with ABC we have full-length episodes of 'Lost,' 'Ugly Betty,' and 'Grey's Anatomy.' But then we also have what I call 'Lesser Known Networks' such as Logo."

One of the biggest challenges for mobile providers is to make access to content easier. "There are a couple of things that Sprint is doing," says Luther. "We have an upgrade to our TV service. Before we had a category list, now we have the visual aspect of the service which is an electronic program guide. What we're trying to do is mirror what the customer is already use to seeing on their TV at home."

With this new venue available to cell phone users, one can only think about the amount of content that is being created and offered to the Urban Market. In some aspects, it's like the Wild West, an untamed limitless arena waiting to be conquered. Currently, Isaac Mizahi is the director of Multicultural Marketing, and Alana Muller will soon be heading the music and music video content at Sprint. But Luther believes that it's such a large task that no one person can oversee Urban content. "We have a multicultural group that looks at Urban specifically, but they are the group that keeps us on track on what content is of interest to consumers," says Luther. They also have recently created a separate programing group that will look at programming in and of itself, helping to specialize the content offered to customers.

Right now in the market, consumption of user-generated content on mobile phones is exponentially higher than the creation of material. But that will change soon, especially as companies such as Sprint have created camcorder capability on their devices. "The ecosystem around the devices we create is still being formed. There are some services out there that help link this gap, and Sprint is a player in that market. We just haven't commercialized any of those services to the general public as of yet," offers Luther.

The way companies look at cell phones have changed drastically for sure. And because of this, companies such as Sprint are positioning themselves to boldly go where no other company has gone before in the maturing of the cellular business. Sprint has a lot of products out there for users, not all of them receiving exposure. "This is one of the challenges," says Jeff. "We have so many cool things out there and the vast majority of people are still asking 'can I make a phone call?' "--Anthony Davis

CELL CRITIQUE: Samsung UpStage
With so many phones out there the choose from, it's often difficult deciding what is the best phone to purchase, especially for Hollywood professionals. But let's say you had an mp3/video player on one side of your phone and a cell phone on the other?

This is what Sprint and Samsung have created to combine phone usage with multi-media components in an effort to make each experience better and more accessible. This is the Samsung UpStage phone. They squeezed two screens, two keyboards, and all the necessary cell phone components into one sleek slender attractive phone.

The small screen on the phone side is only three very small, cramped lines--with a small bit of room left below for soft key labels. There are a limited the number of things you can do on this screen, and it can be frustrating, such as dealing with the screens small font. But it uses anti-aliasing, which makes the text blurry too.

Using the media face's screen is a joy by comparison. Its display is much better with clear fairly sharp resolution, but most of what you type for the searching and text will be on the small side. The quality of the music/video content ranges from okay to pretty good. Downloading your favorite tune is pretty easy as long as you are in Sprint's coverage area. We found it hard to find some of our favorite songs or artists in Sprint's music store, but the download time, often less than a minute, made up for that deficiency. Same can be said about TV content as well. There are a variety of options to choose from--Looney Toons cartoons to CNN to ESPN sports, and evening programing such as "Grey's Anatomy" or "Lost" can be found and downloaded. Yes, the quality is good.

One of the cool and unique aspects of the phone is that the UpStage comes with a Battery Wallet that not only adds thickness to the phone (and protection), but also triples the battery life. Having extended battery time is a consumer's dream, especially when playing and downloading music/video content. But the Battery Wallet is a bit cumbersome especially when texting, surfing the web. Thank goodness for Bluetooth technology, which makes it much easier to just put your phone in your pocket and talk away, without wires or having to hold the phone. Great for multitasking.

So the big question: Is the UpStage an ideal phone for Hollywood professionals to view and/or listen to their content? It's a great phone for someone who wants a sleek slender music player that's affordable and is good for trips around town or to the gym. Viewing video and accessing the web is not its strong points. But bottlom line, it's a good phone that stands up to the standards in the genre.