Having Learned Nothing From ESPN Mobile Debacle, Disney Closes Disney Mobile

from the wash,-rinse,-repeat dept

Disney explored the MVNO concept for years, convinced that given the opportunity, people would rush out to buy Disney-branded mobile phone service. What’s amazing is that in all that time, the company never bothered to figure out how to actually make a branded mobile phone service compelling. It started an MVNO based on ESPN, which failed spectacularly, despite dumping millions of dollars into it. You would think that, having failed once, the company would be careful not to make the same mistakes — but apparently not. When Disney launched its Disney-branded mobile phone service, it seemed perfectly designed as something no kid would want to use. So, it came as little surprise that Disney seemed to follow the identical path of other failed MVNOs: launch hype, quick price cuts, desperate flailing, closure. We noted Disney Mobile was following that exact pattern nearly a year ago (up to the price cut point), but the service continued to hang on… though, it seemed pretty clear it was in trouble. Back in April it tried to paint a rosy picture of its users with a bunch of stats, but glaringly left out how many subscribers there were.

Given all of that, it came as little surprise that Disney completed the trek of the failed MVNO, officially shutting down the service after a year and a half. Apparently, the massive failure with ESPN Mobile didn’t lead to any additional insight into how to sell mobile phone service. Given the variety of high profile MVNO failures in the US lately, can we finally put to rest the concept that was popular a few years ago that every brand would have its own mobile service? People don’t want to buy mobile phone service from an entertainment company — especially when it’s ultra expensive and has little in the way of features that are actually useful. If entertainment brands want to go mobile, they should create mobile apps that can work on a variety of services, rather than wishfully hoping that people will completely switch over to a branded service.

Filed Under:
Companies: disney, espn

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Having Learned Nothing From ESPN Mobile Debacle, Disney Closes Disney Mobile”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Michael says:

“..they should create mobile apps that can work on a variety of services..”

That sums up the old, closed corporate mentality these companies still have. The observation you made is painfully obvious to any marginally attentive biz person. I gurantee there were some underlings telling the “man” to do just what you suggest.

I’m assuming they ignored other companies problem with this biz model because “we can do it better” w/o anything to back it up.

Lance Rock says:

I am intimately familiar with both MVNOs, having worked with a company who provided a hugh chunk of the infrastructure that powered them. More than anything else, what killed both was hubris – a sense that, because most everything Disney (and especially ESPN) spun turned to gold, this would work by the very nature of the strong brand. Lacking ANY understanding of wireless – for the most part, both groups hired people who’d never worked in wireless before – and spending money like drunken sailors (especially ESPN), the MVNOs were severely crippled from the word go. Disney could not even get a retail distribution deal due to constant hardball tactics with the Best Buys of the world, which was the kiss of death. All of their sales were via Customer Care or online (!). They were DISNEY, they could do whatever they wanted, right? Like I said, hubris. I still think the right strategy could have made either of those MVNOs at least a marginal success.

ronp says:


the last post was dead on regarding not only MVNOs but the state of the mobile biz in general and thats – hubris. you can count the number of mvno successes on one hand – maybe one finger – Virgin Mobile and that was because they already had a brand with their target audience. ESPN, Amped, and Disney all suffered from the wishful thinking business model. just like mobile tv in europe – no one has really asked the question do i want to watch a tv clips with substandard resolution on a 2″ screen and pay alot of money for the privilege?

the latest mvno pipe dream is Blyk – their bright idea is to market a fixed group of handsets along with a free tariff of 43 minutes per month along with 217 free sms text messages – as long as they are willing to receive at least 6 ads per day sent to their phones. This brilliant idea will be marketed to college students who we know never use more than 43 minutes per month. of course after you use your 43 minutes you can “top up” your account with pre-paid minutes – does that mean you still have to watch the advertising? as the father of a university student I pulled out her latest bill and did some simple math. I took an average of her monthly minutes – subtracted the 43 from the number and then multiplied that by what it would cost to top her up with blyk minutes. And wouldn’t you know it – just like wi-fi calling – it would cost me 3 times as much with blyk as it does under my current calling plan. am i missing something here?

I would love to have been in on the pitch meetings to the VCs.

mscsrrr.stumbleupon.com (user link) says:

Disney Closes Disney Mobile

It is so sad how big American corporations squander money that they could use to develop human potentials without bathing an eye lash. Soon, some obscure company from Japan or Korea would swoop down like a vulture and gobble them up. I am baffled that this incompetence and waste is happening at Disney while Mike Eisner is there.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...