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.

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Comments on “Turns Out People Don't Want To Buy Mobile Service From A TV Station”

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Sixtycents says:

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 đŸ™‚

cf says:

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.

Conner says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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