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Mobile ESPN to shut down

An update on last night’s post that big news was coming with Mobile ESPN. Sure enough, Disney has decided to shut down the service later this year and license the brand to existing mobile providers. Subscribers will receive full refunds. The mobile virtual network, or MVNO, was likely the most ambitious ever launched by a media company. “As the business developed, we confronted a very competitive sales environment for our MVNO while at the same time attracting significant interest from others to license distribution of Mobile ESPN,” wrote ESPN head George Bodenheimer in a staff memo. Mobile ESPN had been criticized for analysts for not meeting subscriber goals. Press release announcing the change…

PRESS RELEASE — ESPN will cease its Mobile ESPN MVNO operations later this year but remains committed to growing its presence in the wireless industry through licensing its critically acclaimed Mobile ESPN application to existing service providers.

Mobile ESPN’s wireless voice and data services, including the Mobile ESPN sports content, will remain active for current customers until at least December 31, 2006. Current customers will continue to receive complete billing and customer care support during the transition. Future sales of Mobile ESPN handsets and service plans are discontinued immediately.

ESPN, which has licensed content to multiple wireless carriers for more than a decade and is the number one wireless Internet sports content site in the U.S. with eight million unique visitors a month, will also continue its successful Mobile ESPN Publishing business.

“Our MVNO effort created a tremendous wireless asset widely recognized for quality and innovation, and as a result we have been approached by well-entrenched carriers about a licensing model. We have decided to pursue it,” said Salil Mehta, executive vice president, ESPN Enterprises. “With a redefined approach we have a greater opportunity to reach millions of fans while achieving our strategic and financial goals.”

Continued Mehta: “ESPN is now able to take advantage of market opportunities that simply did not exist with our content before we built the MVNO. We remain committed to serving fans in the wireless arena.”

Customers who purchased Mobile ESPN phones will receive a full refund of their purchase price upon settlement of their final Mobile ESPN bill. Before the end of the year, Mobile ESPN will contact all customers with details about future service options to assist in the transition to the new home of Mobile ESPN. Customers electing to discontinue Mobile ESPN service will be released from current contract obligations without early termination penalty.

Mobile ESPN wireless network voice and data services are provided on the Nationwide Sprint PCS Network. High-speed data services are available in the Sprint wireless high-speed data (EVDO) coverage areas. Where available, “EVDO” provides broadband-like download speeds, enabling extremely fast access to Mobile ESPN’s sports content, Internet searching and certain downloads.

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