Content-Focused MVNOs Struggle For Customers

Rumors have been circling for a while that the new breed of content-focused virtual operators have been struggling to attract subscribers, and the WSJ today reports that Amp’d and ESPN Mobile have attracted less than 10,000 subscribers each. It’s hardly a surprise — US consumers have been slow to adopt mobile data services, so to think they’d jump in droves to carriers charging high prices for some multimedia content was a bit of a stretch. The problem these carriers have is that they are — or at least were — trying to charge premium prices based on these services. But at their heart, mobile phones remain communication devices for people, and the pricing of voice service is paramount. These companies have spewed a lot of hot air about being media companies, not wireless resellers — but it’s a view with which consumers clearly don’t agree. It’s a lesson that’s played out repeatedly in the industry, with 3 UK providing the best example. It didn’t start gaining subscribers until it changed its focus from data services like video calling to cheap voice plans, and once it gained a decent amount of users, it started turning them on to its data and content services.

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