Cingular Sponsors YouTube Underground Talent Hunt

Cingular Wireless is hopping aboard the YouTube gravy train.

The mobile phone carrier, which is a joint venture of AT&T and BellSouth, has inked a deal with the popular video sharing Web site to sponsor a talent hunt for unsigned bands and musicians.

Financial terms of the pact, which also includes an affiliation with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” were not released.

Cingular Wireless will be the premier sponsor of YouTube UnderGround, a music promotion that invites bands and musicians without record deals to submit videos showing off musical, lyrical and video making skills.

Video submissions open on October 2 and run through October 18.

After that, YouTube’s millions of users will vote for the finalists. Four grand prize winners — best song, best music video, best live performance and best creative work — will then be picked by Alexandra Patsavas of Chop Shop Music Supervision.

Among other things, the winning musical act will get a video featured on mobile phones via Cingular Video, an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and new music equipment from Gibson Guitar and Epiphone.

The winning bands will also have a chance to have original ringtones available for download on Cingular’s MEdia Net, a service that bundles wireless content.

According to John Burbank, vice president of marketing at Cingular Wireless, the sponsorship is a “natural extension” of the company’s investments around mobile entertainment. “We look forward to building our relationship with YouTube and demonstrating our unique approach to mobilizing the music experience for our customers,” he added.

For YouTube, the Cingular partnership provides a big-spending corporate sponsor to help legitimize — and monetize — its user-generated, video-upload service. Industry watchers have openly questioned YouTube’s ability to attract mainstream advertisers but a string of deals could suggest a turning of the tide.

Earlier this week, YouTube scored a deal to legally distribute music videos from Warner Music Group.

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