@ CTIA: Billboard: ESPN's Zehr Defends Verizon Exclusive, In Spite of MVNO Failure

John Zehr, the senior VP of digital video and mobile at ESPN, rehashed the failure of the ESPN Mobile MVNO at the behest of moderator Tom Wheeler (managing director, Core Capital Partners) at Billboard Mobile Entertainment Live event that it was asking too much for consumers to change operators to access ESPN’s content. Later, however, he defended ESPN’s exclusive relationship with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless by saying the two had a “great partnership” and that the quality of Verizon’s network and the support its V CAST platform offers justified the exclusivity.

An audience member asked if ESPN had plans to resurrect its MVNO in the future, but Zehr said the company didn’t have any such plans. He did say, though, that as content and data services become more important to consumers, the way they’ll make decisions about service providers and service options will change significantly — implying that content brands could become bigger draws and more persuasive brands than mobile operators.

On the question of broadcast versus unicast video, Zehr said that there is a lot of content for ESPN that makes sense to be broadcasted, because it has widespread appeal. Conversely, there’s a lot of content — shorter clips, other on-demand content, or niche programming — that works better in a unicast environment. He added that the capacity constraints on unicast are an issue, but that engineers will eventually work them out.

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