Blog Post

Mobile ESPN: Grounded

Mobile ESPN will officially shut its doors later this year the company said in a release, and Rafat & Staci mentioned last night. The company says December 31 is the end of the road for existing customers and sales of ESPN handsets and services are discontinued immediately. (Save those ESPN-branded handsets, they’ll be collectables soon.) Customers that actually bought the cell phones will receive a full refund. The company just updated its website with a farewell letter.

ESPN says it will try to license its mobile application to other wireless carriers, and tried to keep a cheery face in the release, but just ended up sounding sad:

“Our MVNO effort created a tremendous wireless asset widely recognized for quality and innovation, and as a result we have been approached by well-entrenched carriers about a licensing model. We have decided to pursue it,” said Salil Mehta, executive vice president, ESPN Enterprises. “With a redefined approach we have a greater opportunity to reach millions of fans while achieving our strategic and financial goals.”

Uh, right. Don’t worry, Helio will join you soon. Oh we kid Helio! (Engadget has some details on a Helio EVDO/WiFi card with Boingo. So much for high end phones and MVNO’s original premise.)

Savvy reader Charlie Sierra says the real story is the management shakeup that will come out of Sprint Nextel as a result of MVNO moves like this. And this should scare the cable guys as well. (Thanks for the comments!)

4 Responses to “Mobile ESPN: Grounded”

  1. Jesse Kopelman

    I don’t see this effecting the cable guys. I don’t think they will be marketing cellular as a standalone service, but as part of a bundle. This pretty much what they do with voice — does anyone have Comcast phone and none of their other services? Since the cellular will be pretty much a defensive play agains 4-Play from AT&T and Verizon, they only need it to break even — not be profitable, like traditional MVNO. Also note that their is a potential symbiotic relationship between cable, with its fiber assets, and Sprint that is just not there with the likes of Helio or ESPN Mobile.

  2. Helio will be next! Unless they’re stubborn and choose to bleed to death… MVNOs (re-cellulars) will only survive as bargain and/or pre-pay services like Virgin Mobile. We don’t need overpriced content niche offerings. If I want sports content, I’ll do Sprint TV, Orb, or Slingbox and some web surfing to WAP pages for scores and news. ESPN never had a chance.