By lowering the price of its only handset — the oh-so-sleek Sanyo — ESPN lowers the cost of entry for Mobile ESPN considerably. When trials started, the handset retailed for nearly $500 — a hefty pricetag sliced a bit by rebate. That plus the cost of the cheapest plan would run more than $800 a year. The price slowly kept sliding until hitting $99 for the start of the MLB season, a change I missed in all the hubbub of the last couple of weeks. The $99 handset is being marketed now. Also, new handsets are upcoming with at least one expected this summer; I heard as early as June. No pricing details yet.
The entry level cost now for someone who wants the phone more for the ESPN features than talk time: just over $500. As the customer’s cost decreases, the MVNO’s subsidy costs increase but new subscribers lock in income. On the lower plans, it could be a wash for the year; higher plans should bring faster returns. That basic $34.95 plan is meant as an alternative for people already locked into contracts with other carriers. None of Mobile ESPN’s plans come with unlimited data but spokesperson Rebecca Gertsmark says going over the limit has not been an issue but “we’ll continue to look at it.”
ESPN also has updated the advertising for Mobile ESPN. The expensive Super Bowl launch ad was creative but didn’t measure up to the usual efforts by the sports net in terms of impact. I’m not sure when they started running but the quick-hit ads I saw during Sports Center tonight are more direct.