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ESPN May Beat MSOs to Market with Mobile

Competition for cable operators in communications and entertainment services is emerging from all corners -- even those within their own product portfolio. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN sports television network unveiled a deal with Sprint Corp. to launch its own brand of mobile phone service in 2005 called ESPN Mobile. Through the pact, ESPN is renting network capacity and services from Sprint PCS to serve as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). ESPN says it will not only offer cell phone service, but applications such as access to ESPN sports news, information, commentary, analysis, statistics, ring tones, graphics, photos and logos, as well as streaming audio and video. In addition to providing extensive sports content, ESPN Mobile will be responsible for billing, customer relations, pricing, packaging, distribution and other operational aspects of the business. ESPN Mobile will also sell ESPN-branded handsets, accessories and applications tailored to its target audience of sports fans. While cable multiple system operators (MSOs) like Comcast, Time Warner and Charter are still in the exploratory stages for a mobile offering to complement their IP phone and broadband services, ESPN is roaring out of the gate. And, you can bet ESPN will be marketing the heck out of ESPN Mobile on its television network, aggressively enticing cable TV customers to spend their communications dollars with someone besides their MSO.
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