The Wall Street Journal reported today that
Mobile ESPN, a start-up cellphone company backed by Walt Disney Co., will announce as soon as today that it is closing down operations, hoping to reinvent itself as a content partner of bigger wireless carriers, people familiar with the matter say.
The company, which launched earlier this year at the Super Bowl, has developed cellphones that feature a variety of sports-centric content and features.
But it has struggled to build a customer base in a fiercely competitive cellular industry with much bigger players.
Mobile ESPN operates through an agreement with Sprint Nextel Corp., paying for wholesale access to the carrier’s network and then reselling service to its own subscribers.
If any company would have the brand and the content to develop its own branded cell phone system, it would seem to be ESPN. The problem here seems to be that people may be interested in getting the video content and sports scores on their wireless devices, but they make the decision on their cell phone company based on other factors. By trying to own both the content and the distribution channel, ESPN apparently dreamed a little too big. It seems more likely that licensing content to a variety of carriers would find a bigger audience.