Mobile ESPN doesn’t make the cut

Lisa Napoli Sep 28, 2006

Sascha Segan was incorrectly identified in this report. He is a reporter for PC Magazine, not PC World.

KAI RYSSDAL: I dropped my cell phone the other day. It still works. Still makes calls. But the screen sorta got messed up. I have to squint and hold it sideways a bit if I want to see who’s calling. So now I’m in the market for a new one. And as of today I have one less option. Disney has shut down the cell phone service it called Mobile ESPN. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli has the play-by-play.

LISA NAPOLI: One minute you’re the toast of the burgeoning mobile phone content business. Eight months later, they’re pulling the plug.

It’s no surprise to industry observer Sascha Segan of [PC Magazine]:

SASCHA SEGAN:“ESPN Mobile was basically doomed from the start. There was one key element missing, which was you couldn’t actually watch ESPN on the phone.”

Sagan says mobile access to sports scores wasn’t enough of an enticement to people to pony up for expensive phones and calling plans.

SEGAN:“They can’t just have one glowing feature because people don’t generally buy their cell phones around one glowing feature.”

Industry observers like Sue Marek of Wireless Week wondered today about the fate of other branded cell phone services, like several targeted at the teen market:

SUE MAREK:“A year ago it was sort of the latest, great thing. I think companies underestimated how difficult it is to do this sort of service and to do it well.”

Rafat Ali of thinks Mobile ESPN also underestimated how long it would take to take off:

RAFAT ALI:“It’s a phone service. It doesn’t take five months to prove itself. It probably takes five years to prove itself.”

But Disney wasn’t willing to give its $135 million experiment the time, especially since it only attracted 30,000 subscribers — not the quarter-million it had hoped for.

In New York, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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