The Twentieth Century Fox studio, a veteran of the big screen and the TV screen, is about to break into an entirely new realm: the really little screen, the kind that comes on a cellphone.
In what appeared to be the first arrangement of its kind, Twentieth Century Fox said Wednesday that it would create a unique series of one-minute dramas based on its hit show “24" exclusively for a new high-speed wireless service being offered by Vodafone, the world’s biggest cellphone company.
Vodafone will begin offering the one-minute episodes in January in Britain, coinciding with the start of the fourth season of “24" on satellite TV.
The “mobisodes,” as they’re being called, will be introduced later in 2005 in as many as 23 more countries where Vodafone operates, mainly in Europe, as well as in the United States through the company’s Verizon Wireless joint venture.
The deal is part of a broader agreement between Fox Entertainment Group and London-based Vodafone under which Fox, the entertainment unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will develop other programming to be viewed on the phones.
In March, the new Vodafone service, to be called Vodafone live! with 3G, also will offer trailers and clips of movies under a “Movie of the Month” service, the first one being “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.”
Cellphone operators have invested heavily to roll out high-speed wireless services, intent on bringing new revenues from Internet browsing, streaming video and audio, and other media.
The announcement came on the same day that Vodafone announced the launch of its long-delayed high-speed wireless services across much of Europe. The launch ended a wait of several years since Vodafone spent billions to acquire licenses to use more of the public airwaves to deliver the new third-generation services.
The one-minute dramas and movie trailers from Fox were one of several features being unveiled for Vodafone’s service, which also will also offer news, sports, music and games. A total of 24 dramas will be based on characters from the TV series.
Teri Everett, a spokeswoman for Fox Entertainment Group, said Fox’s deal with Vodafone represented the first time a Hollywood studio had agreed to make a TV series expressly for distribution on cellphones.