Why Exclusive Mobile Content Deals Don't Make Sense

from the pointless-loopholes dept

Yesterday we saw the news that Sprint had signed an “exclusive” deal with the NFL. It’s really a sponsorship deal, where Sprint will sponsor the NFL. However, as part of the deal, Sprint will supposedly get “exclusive” content that can be sent to Sprint subscriber mobile phones. It’s understandable why mobile operators do these types of deals. The basic calculus is having exclusive content will make their service more attractive — but, honestly, how many people decide who their mobile operator will be based on what content it provides? Instead, it’s much more likely that users pick based on what kind of coverage, what types of service plans there are and what kind of phones work on a particular operator’s network. So, really, all this has done is cut off a lot of football fans who really have no interest in switching to Sprint for reasons that have nothing to do with the NFL content on the phones. However, to make this even more bizarre, today came the news that Verizon Wireless was gearing up for the football season by signing sponsorship deals directly with 13 different NFL teams. In other words, to get around the NFL “exclusive” deal, Verizon Wireless simply went directly to teams. Now, they’ll have some of their own exclusive content to offer mobile subscribers — but once again, it’s unlikely to impact who chooses what service. So, these football teams are really cutting off fans by doing these types of deals. Angering fans isn’t such a smart idea. Subscribers are likely to start wondering why their internet service provider lets them access any content, while their mobile operator locks them in to specific content and locks out others from that same content — even if they’re willing to pay for it. These types of deals, therefore, basically hurt everyone. Fans get less content, the NFL has fewer fans able to pay attention to the content and the mobile operators upset users who start wondering why these operators are limiting them. It’s not as if mobile data users don’t have the internet to compare these offerings to, and it’s just going to make them wonder why their mobile operators can’t offer a similar service to the open internet they’re used to.

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Comments on “Why Exclusive Mobile Content Deals Don't Make Sense”

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Seth Brundle says:

Dont dismiss the cobrand

I worked as an engineer and producer for mobile content deals for a large web portal for a couple years.
You are mistakenly measuring a cobranding promotion with product performance. I know you correctly acknowledged this in your article, but you incorrectly dismissed it.
US mobile carriers have never had any luck selling specific data services on phones, so they use the promotion of these cobranded features for market differentiation, which is a constant battle in the mobile space.
As I write this, there is a Virgin Mobile advertisement on TV showing a seaside voodoo(?) band sending a mock satan off in a rowboat (and exploding), representing a long-term service contract from another carrier – now you know how desperate carriers are for market differentiation and exclusivity.
The marketing department of a mobile carrier does not have much control over coverage, devices, or service. Their job is to create a unique promotion for the quarter so they can run a unique ad campaign and drive some sales – and, liek it or not, they are reasonably cost effective and work.
Bacially, both brands exchange negligible monies in order to mashup their brands, leveraging their brand value instead of money for promotion.
In late August, it makes perfect sense to start a cobranding promotion with the NFL – the service is relatively irrelevant to the carrier, it just needs to work and not drive support calls.
BTW if you ask random cellphone users to list their available carriers by handsets, coverage, and service, they would shrug their shoulders at you. Although TechDirt’s readership would likely skew differently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Honestly, just because a marketing department needs to have some sort of innovative deal by the end of the quarter, that doesn’t really mean this is good for the company. I understand it’s their job to do this, but just because it’s hard to come up with things, it doesn’t make the things they come up with suck any less.

Seth Brundle says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

Well, its good for the company because *lack* of such promotion and advertising causes sales to drop through the floor.

If the data service was available to all carriers, the company (Sprint) doesnt stand to gain any NFL data differentiation whatsoever over, say Cingular.

As I mentioned, mobile carrier differentiation is a tough job for any marketer, the fact that most attempts seem lame is no surprise.

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