by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:

disney, espn

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.

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  • identicon
    Random, 28 Sep 2007 @ 3:53am

    Who would want that?

    Who would possibly want a Disney branded phone service? Seriously? Without some seriously cool additions and offers, not to mention some really good marketing strategy to get people interested.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bornslippy, 28 Sep 2007 @ 5:25am

    It had some neat features

    You could track your kid online via GPS, disable txt msging. Block certain numbers and I think even set times when the phone could place and receive calls via the web.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Big Mouse Hater, 28 Sep 2007 @ 5:57am

    Fascist Corporate Mouse Stumbles Again

    MuhwahMuhwah Ha haaa haa ha !

    You called it ! The foolish mouse didn't listen ! You were right ! You told 'em so !

    Serves them right ! Ha HA !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 28 Sep 2007 @ 6:42am

    "..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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RandomThoughts, 28 Sep 2007 @ 6:59am

    ESPN wasn't a complete wash, as they put their organization into a state that now allows them to provide data over the different service providers. By starting their own MVNO, they are now able to provide their content over all networks.

    Kind of like Y2K prompted companies to upgrade their hardware and systems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lance Rock, 28 Sep 2007 @ 9:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ronp, 28 Sep 2007 @ 1:57pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon, 29 Sep 2007 @ 1:23am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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