Exclusivity Worked So Well For Mobile ESPN The First Time, So Why Not Try It Again?

ESPN’s virtual operator failed spectacularly when hardly anybody cared about its content and data services enough to make them want to switch mobile operators, and pay premium prices to boot. We argued at the time that ESPN should stick to its content distribution roots and sell its content through as many outlets as possible. The company has now revived its mobile operations, and will be just a content provider — but it’s signed an exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless. Users who subscribe to Verizon’s V CAST content service, and who have one of a handful of compatible handsets, will be able to get the ESPN data application and services for free as part of their subscription. On a strategic level, it’s hard to understand the logic here. After all, as we’ve pointed out, would ESPN ever offer its cable channels through an exclusive deal with a single provider? Of course not. On a tactical level, though, this was about the only option ESPN had, since the apps it used with the MVNO were all for the BREW platform, and Verizon’s the only operator with a nationwide presence that uses it. So there’s another strategic misstep: developing for a closed platform that’s only used by a single operator. There’s nothing like taking steps to limit your own potential market to ensure the success of your business.

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