February 8, 2007 1:29 PM PST

Verizon breathing new life into Mobile ESPN

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ESPN said Thursday it will relaunch its sports-centered mobile phone service through Verizon Wireless.

The two companies have signed an exclusive multiyear deal that will allow Verizon Wireless to offer the Mobile ESPN application developed for ESPN's homegrown mobile phone service through Verizon's V Cast multimedia service. The application will be available later this year, a Verizon Wireless representative said.

The deal also allows Verizon to broadcast live ESPN sporting events over Verizon TV, a new service that uses Qualcomm's mobile broadcasting network called MediaFlo. Verizon said last month that the V Cast TV service would launch in the first quarter of this year. Other channels include NBC, CBS, Fox and MTV.

For the regular V Cast service, Verizon will not charge extra for the Mobile ESPN application. It comes free with either a $15 monthly service subscription or the $3-a-day V Cast pass. Users will simply download the application from Verizon's Get It Now service. The application will then appear as a menu item within the V Cast service. Fans will be able to manage their fantasy sports teams and get real-time scores, news, analysis and short video-on-demand clips.

News of the deal with Verizon Wireless comes exactly one year after ESPN launched Mobile ESPN, a virtual mobile network operator dedicated to sports fans. After about eight months of offering the Mobile ESPN service, the company shut it down. At the time, executives said they would look to partner with established operators to offer the ESPN service.

Mobile ESPN never published subscriber numbers, but some experts speculate the venture never gained more than 30,000 subscribers, well below original estimates of 240,000 subscribers. While fans were impressed with the multimedia application, not enough people were sufficiently dazzled to switch their current cell phone plans and sign up for the service. Mobile ESPN was criticized for its lack of "cool" and sophisticated handsets.

"There are something like 20 million Verizon handsets that are V Cast ready in the market today," said Rebecca Gertsmark, a spokeswoman for ESPN. "That opens up a much broader audience for Mobile ESPN. And consumers who loved the Mobile ESPN multimedia features don't have to switch carriers or buy a new phone to get it."

The companies haven't disclosed the financial terms of the deal or how long the exclusivity will last. ESPN has licensing agreements with other carriers such as Sprint Nextel, which offers some of its sports content on its phones. ESPN also maintains a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) site that anyone with a mobile browser and connection to a wireless data network can access.

See more CNET content tagged:
ESPN, Verizon V-Cast, Verizon Wireless, Verizon Communications, The Walt Disney Co.

6 comments

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ESPN Mobile on a1r.mobi/Sports.html today
Why buy a smartphone or use Verizon? If you have a standard mobile phone, you can access ESPN from "Guys Gone Mobi" today at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://a1r.mobi/Sports.html" target="_newWindow">http://a1r.mobi/Sports.html</a>. It doesn't even require a smartphone, just a normal cell phone, and it has many sports-related links.
Posted by Rasci2007 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VZW rocks
Maybe, because the consumer wants to be on a strong and superior network that can handle it, aside also make calls as well?

Mayhaps?
Posted by AMPerez (33 comments )
Link Flag
ESPN Mobile on a1r.mobi/Sports.html today
Why buy a smartphone or use Verizon? If you have a standard mobile phone, you can access ESPN from "Guys Gone Mobi" today at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://a1r.mobi/Sports.html" target="_newWindow">http://a1r.mobi/Sports.html</a>. It doesn't even require a smartphone, just a normal cell phone, and it has many sports-related links.
Posted by Rasci2007 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VZW rocks
Maybe, because the consumer wants to be on a strong and superior network that can handle it, aside also make calls as well?

Mayhaps?
Posted by AMPerez (33 comments )
Link Flag
Content is king, but...
I guess this could be pointed to as a result of what happens when you try to marry hardware and software. (Why the aPhone has Gmail and Yahoo mail pre-loaded, not just a slimmed down OSX mail app.)

The new deal still isn't carrier-agnostic, but at least now it's another compelling reason to pick up (or keep) an established carrier... not _the_ only reason to change to a new carrier.

Yes, Sprint is an established carrier, but they're weren't mentioned as the provider, you were asked to simply buy into a cell phone offered by ESPN.

This might be part of the problem with the Disney system, too. (Although for me, personally, it's the Sprint label behind the scenes. If Disney wanted to offer this service over Cingular or Verizon, we'd get it in a second.)
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Content is king, but...
I guess this could be pointed to as a result of what happens when you try to marry hardware and software. (Why the aPhone has Gmail and Yahoo mail pre-loaded, not just a slimmed down OSX mail app.)

The new deal still isn't carrier-agnostic, but at least now it's another compelling reason to pick up (or keep) an established carrier... not _the_ only reason to change to a new carrier.

Yes, Sprint is an established carrier, but they're weren't mentioned as the provider, you were asked to simply buy into a cell phone offered by ESPN.

This might be part of the problem with the Disney system, too. (Although for me, personally, it's the Sprint label behind the scenes. If Disney wanted to offer this service over Cingular or Verizon, we'd get it in a second.)
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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