Cell providers began offering episodes on demand about a year ago. Sprint's 70 "channels" include streaming video from CBS and other networks, plus more than a dozen shows, such as Desperate Housewives and CSI: New York, with usually the previous four episodes available.
"If you are on your lunch break or if you are sitting in your car waiting for your kid at soccer practice and want to watch a chapter or two, you can do that," says Sprint's Aaron Radelet.
Mobile users are willing to watch for extended periods, says Nielsen Mobile's Nic Covey. Nearly half (47%) say their average session lasts 15 minutes or longer; 25% watch 30 minutes or more.
Says Covey: "Enough consumers watch mobile video for those lengths of time and enough consumers are interested in name-brand programming that this level of mobile viewing could be just as big an opportunity as clips."
Now playing: Top cell providers' TV offerings, plans
Current listings: On-demand full-length episodes from ABC (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Samantha Who?) and CBS (CSI: NY, Numb3rs), Disney (Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Wizards of Waverly Place). Other live and simulcast channels deliver episodes of The Daily Show (Comedy Central), Larry King Live (CNN), CBS Evening News With Katie Couric (CBS), The Hills (MTV), SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon), Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Cartoon Network), as well as Fox News Live, E! and ABC News Now.
The NFL Network simulcast will provide live coverage of the NFL draft this coming weekend.
Overall, Sprint has more than 70 channels of programming, including Spike, VH1, CMT and GameTrailers; 25 more are available in Spanish (available nationwide).
Also available on demand are movies such as I Am Legend (Warner), Enchanted (Disney), The Italian Job (Paramount), Spider-Man 3 (Sony) and Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (Lionsgate), streamed in chapters or in their entirety (new releases cost $5.99 for the whole movie, others as low as $3.99).
Cost: Monthly cost for a data plan for on-demand and streamed programming starts at $15 (includes CNN, Disney, Fox Sports, Weather Channel, E! and NFL Network). A $20 plan has 21 more channels; additional channels can be purchased individually for $4.99 monthly.
Current listings: Cellular subscribers can watch full-length episodes of shows such as Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, Entourage, The Office and 30 Rock on demand. More full episodes are available on AT&T's MobiTV service (also offered on Sprint and Alltel), including Hannah Montana (Disney Channel), Dirty Jobs (Discovery), Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi) and live NBA, MLB and college basketball games on ESPN Mobile TV; Access Hollywood; MSNBC; Fox News; Discovery Channel; TLC; Weather Channel; Oxygen and more.
AT&T recently offered live footage from the Masters golf tournament to MobiTV subscribers and on-demand content for cellphone users.
On the way: AT&T Mobile TV (58 U.S. markets), launching in May, will have channels with full episodes, including CSI and Two and a Half Men (CBS), The Office and My Name Is Earl (NBC), SpongeBob (Nickelodeon), The Daily Show (Comedy Central), Bones (Fox) and other content on MTV, ESPN and NBCNews2Go.
Also on Mobile TV is a new exclusive-to-AT&T channel, PIX, created by Sony, that will broadcast movies such as Groundhog Day, Memento, Ghostbusters and Philadelphia.