Mobile ESPN, It’s Baaack!

Say it ain’t so. ESPN’s mobile service has returned from the grave and is nursing itself back to health over on Verizon Wireless’ VCAST service — not another MVNO, but a proper mobile content deal.

Verizon and ESPN announced a deal Thursday morning (AP had it late last night) to offer ESPN’s sports content and application over VCAST’s subscription service as well as over Verizon’s upcoming MediaFLO mobile TV service.


The Sprint MVNO partnership was just the wrong business plan for the sports content company. Was it the MVNO model or the Sprint deal? Probably both:

“For ESPN, this is the right strategy and the right carrier relationship to grow our business while serving millions of sports fans . . .” press release, Salil Mehta, executive vice president, ESPN Enterprises

ESPN getting back into the mobile business through a standard mobile content deal, speaks volumes about last year’s misplaced MVNO enthusiasm. It takes a ton of money to build any kind of sizable wireless carrier business. ESPN learned the hard way.

Now Amp’d and Helio are spending cash like crazy and a year into Amp’d’s service they say they have 100,000 subscribers — Helio says it’ll reach 100,000 next quarter, when it reaches roughly a year old.

Good thing for Amp’d the company is private and doesn’t have to report its financials. Helio isn’t so lucky, with parent companies SK Telecom and Earthlink. This week SK Telecom says Helio’s losses will reach between $330 million and $360 million in 2007, up from $192 million in 2006. Earthlink has reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $24.8 million compared to a profit of $29.2 million a year earlier, largely thanks to Helio.

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