Want to watch soaps on your cellphone? The news? Football? How about programming your digital video recorder when you're away from home...

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ST. LOUIS — Want to watch soaps on your cellphone? The news? Football?

How about programming your digital video recorder when you’re away from home? Or checking your e-mail and voice mail from a single point, mobile or hard-wired?

A joint venture among Sprint Nextel and four major cable operators promises to deliver a “third screen” of information, communications and entertainment to customers starting next year.

The venture includes cable companies Comcast, the nation’s largest operator; Time Warner, the second-largest; No. 3 operator Cox Communications; and Advance/Newhouse Communications, the seventh-largest.

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Each cable company is committing $25 million, and Sprint will put in $100 million to develop converged services, national marketing and back-office integration.

The deal will allow the cable companies to offer a “quadruple play” of services: video, high-speed Internet, phone service and wireless.

That would give cable operators an offer comparable to what SBC Communications and some other big telephone companies offer when they sell a discounted wireless plan along with local and long-distance phone service, digital subscriber lines and satellite television.

SBC and Verizon Communications are strengthening their fiber networks to bring their own interactive television service and faster Internet service to homes in Texas and other states.

What the cable companies envision is more than bolting a cellphone plan onto their existing bundles.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the venture would allow cable to go “wireless in and outside of the house.”

He said the group of cable companies began talking a year ago about ways to bring new products and bundles to market faster. They approached several wireless companies, but only Sprint wanted to join them.

Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee said the new service would build on Sprint’s Power Vision, which delivers full-motion video and high-quality sound to phones, as well as advanced data capabilities.

The service also could use phones that function as cellphones when a customer is on the move and as wired phones in the home.

The deal envisions a launch by mid-2006 of cellphones with advanced capabilities such as wireless-access live cable channels and programs stored on digital video recorders at home, as well as the ability to program a DVR remotely.

The mobile phones would have single-screen access to e-mail and voice mail from a customer’s home and wireless numbers.

“Each company can pursue this opportunity in different ways,” Roberts said.

Sprint would make separate deals with each cable company on what parts of the service might be offered in each market.

The cable companies would handle billing and customer service, but revenue from the wireless service would flow back to Sprint.

Pricing would vary between markets.

Information on plans for a 2006 launch provided by The Associated Press.