Turns Out People Don't Want To Buy Mobile Service From A TV Station

from the the-end-of-branded-MVNO-hype? dept

A few years back, before Cingular bought AT&T Wireless and Sprint bought Nextel, there was all this talk about how there was too many players in the mobile operator space, and how consolidation had to occur (as it did). However, based on that, it seemed odd that many of the same people then talked up how wonderful mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) would be. Any company, the feeling was, could just slap their brand on someone else's network and suddenly be a mobile operator themselves. Of course, the missing part of the equation was why anyone would want to buy such a branded mobile phone and service, as opposed to from a traditional mobile operator. Unfortunately, some seemed to feel that the brand association alone would be enough. Disney's ESPN was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, though from the beginning some were asking why people would buy phone service from ESPN. Obviously, there are sports fanatics who like the idea of getting sports content on a phone, but why wouldn't ESPN just partner with existing operators or just put their content online in a mobile format? Betting that people want your content so badly they'll completely ditch their existing mobile operator and phone for you, is a pretty big bet. Of course, it didn't help that, on top of that, ESPN decided to charge ridiculously high prices.

The company also seemed to forget the key thing: as nice as it may be to get sports content on your mobile phone, the key reason people buy mobile phone service is to communicate, not to get sports info. Getting broadcast style content may be a nice-to-have, and it may be high up on some people's lists of cool features, but mobile phones are about communication first. And, when you think of communications, ESPN isn't a brand name that comes to mind. So, despite a ridiculous amount of advertising, it turned out that very, very, very few people ever felt it was worth their while to sign up for mobile phone service from ESPN. As was rumored late last night, this morning the company has announced plans to shut down the offering by the end of the year. At least they'll be refunding the purchase price of the phones to the few thousand people who signed up. There is still some potential for MVNOs that look for ways to offer services that mobile operators are avoiding, but hopefully this wakes up those who figured that every big name brand would have their own mobile phone service to the simple fact that selling telecom services requires more than a big consumer brand.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 9:43am

    Nope.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 10:31am

    Never.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 11:07am

    Disney, ESPN, Cell Phone service provider... sigh... I dont blame the brand 'Disney', nor it's history... i blame it's current executives who approved such a project. They should all be fired.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    jsnbase, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 12:19pm

    Let's not be hasty

    Does the Spice channel have plans to offer any kind of mobile service?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 12:49pm

    Maybe not a TV station, but a cable company.....

     

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  6.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Let's not be hasty

    don't kid yourself... you're waiting for the Lifetime mobile service :P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Sixtycents, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 1:38pm

    MVNO.. Ampd and Helio

    Well i dont know bout ESPN, but Ampd mobile and Helio have some pretty cool offerings aside from just communication... I dont aggree that the main thing is Communication... in our american culture its all about economic value and pressence.

    The phones gotta look sweet and have a decent price tag.. google Nokia 770 :)

     

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  8.  
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    Roofieo, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 1:59pm

    They are done.

    This is REALLY funny. Check out what it sent all it's members

    [url=http://mobile.espn.go.com/] Here[/url]

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Roofieo, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 2:00pm

    They are done.

    This is REALLY funny. Check out what it sent all it's members

    here

    http://mobile.espn.go.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    cf, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 4:01pm

    Disney ESPN mobiles

    Does anyone who reads this board also watch TV? I saw Disney phone commercials quite a few times. It seems that their selling points are: tracking your kids, controlling your child's phone use both in time used and hours of operation, tracking your kids, learning about your child's school accomplishments without having to talk with them, ummm... did I mention tracking your kids. This service and the commercials seems spooky to me. Mickey's Gang is taking an ominous turn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Haywood, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 4:49pm

    I might pay extra not to have sports content. Why stop at the phone? How much to never hear anything sports related ever mentioned on TV?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Robert (profile), Sep 28th, 2006 @ 5:50pm

    Disney ESPN Mobiles

    A bid hearty second to poster Haywoods comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Conner, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 7:08pm

    Too Short

    Does anyone else think it's a bad idea to pull the plug after less than a year? I'm guessing that most people who would be willing to sign up for this probably already have cell phones. This means they are locked into a one or two year contract already. I know I would have considered ESPN mobile when my contract was up next spring, but wasn't willing to part with my current provider due to the late fee.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2006 @ 6:43am

    Conner, a bad business model is a bad business model. While they did have subscribers, the market just wasn't right for ESPN. Thats not to say they can't work with traditional carriers to monitize their content, just isn't compelling enough by itself.

    The MVNO market is one that will stick around, but only by firms that are right for the market. I could see Myspace becoming an MVNO, bring features that Myspace members would want (like updating their site, viewing the site, emailing and texting their friends etc.)

    The cable companies have a good opportunity as an MVNO, they can bundle services to complete the Quad Play.

    ESPN might not have had the right business model, but that doesn't mean that MVNO's as a whole will fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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