Mobile Providers Weary of Adult Content

Jeff Berg
LOS ANGELES — American cellphone carriers are slowly backing away from mobile adult content, with Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest carrier, announcing recently that it would even stop selling images of clothed adult film stars over its network.

The service, first available in mid-November through AT&T Wireless but now a casualty of Cingular’s buyout of AT&T, allowed customers to download the images for $5.99 a piece.

“We’re not going to offer adult content; we’re not going to offer ultraviolent games,” Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Cingular, told the New York Times. “That is not compatible with the Cingular brand.”

Cingular will, however, still continue to sell images taken from Sports Illustrated and Maxim.

Sprint also has a similar policy in place and only offers pictures from Sports Illustrated and Maxim. A company spokeswoman told the New York times that even if the pictures, which include topless models covering their breasts, don’t appear different than those provided by Playboy, brand identification was still a factor.

“A Playboy brand or Penthouse brand — those do not meet our requirements,” the spokeswoman said. “Sports Illustrated and Maxim do.”

Cingular’s announcement comes just as the adult industry is beginning to make its first forays in the U.S. mobile market, even though both the European and Asian markets are already experiencing significant growth.

Waat Media, a Los Angeles-based company that produces mobile content for Vivid Video, said it currently has 200,000 European customers that download content every month.

The Asian market for mobile content is also quickly growing, with adult mobile beginning to make up a sizeable portion of sales.

Looking at the quickly growing market for mobile content in Europe and Asia and hoping to extend it to the U.S., Playboy announced earlier this month that it inked a deal with a mobile content developer to create Playboy-themed games, graphics and ringtones for U.S. customers.

“Given the extraordinary success we’ve had with our wireless offerings around the world, we felt the time was right to expand our wireless content to the millions of U.S. subscribers,” said Randy Nicolau, president of distribution for the Playboy Entertainment Group.

AEBN also confirmed its interest in the mobile market earlier this week, revealing that it has been working for months on a project it plans to unveil at the 2005 Internext Expo.