Teen-Targeted Mobile Media Net Launches

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Varsity Media CEO Kelly Hoffman knows the secret of targeting the high-school demographic: Aim for the girls.

“If you have teenage daughters, you discover that you not only get all the girls in the neighborhood, but you also get all the boys,” says Hoffman, the father of three teenage girls. With a laugh, he adds: “Whether you want them or not.”

Wearing his media executive hat, Hoffman is looking to attract all the neighborhood kids. His company Wednesday is launching Varsity Mobile, a teen-oriented mobile-phone video service on the Sprint PCS Vision network.

Varsity Mobile features user-submitted video clips of just about anything a teen might shoot with a camera: snowboarding, comedy skits, even garage bands.

The clips range in length from one to five minutes. Varsity Mobile features four channels: Teen Talent Search, with contestants competing in eight categories; music video channel Swept Away; Student Studio, featuring drama and comedy originals; and Varsity Extreme, a sports channel.

Using an interactive component, Varsity Mobile users can vote for a favorite character or clip. For example, users rate Teen Talent Search contestants, making or breaking their future on the fledgling service.

“The mobile phone is an extension of a teen’s life,” says Hoffman. “We’re the gap between Nickelodeon and MTV. We feel there’s a legitimate niche there, and these teens spend billions of dollars per year. They travel around, but the one thing that is by their side. It’s not their American Express—they don’t have one. It’s their cell phone.”

For now, the content is entirely user-created, with some clips originating at TV production facilities at high schools around the country. “The production values are very good in most cases,” Hoffman says.

The Austin, Tex.-based company reviews content at its offices, but since so much content comes from high school media departments, “the self-regulation is fantastic,” says Hoffman. “Quite frankly, we don’t receive any junk that is of a nature that you wouldn’t want to air.”

For now, Varsity Mobile is purely subscription-based and runs without ads.

The service is available for $4.95 a month to Sprint PCS Vision customers with video-enabled phones.

As an entertainment channel, Varsity Mobile channel will appear alongside PCS Vision’s other offerings in sports, news and weather.

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