ESPN Phones It In

ESPN and Sprint Corp. will launch a new wireless phone service called ESPN Mobile in 2005 targeted at sports fans. Along with traditional voice service, subscribers will have access to sports news, commentary, analysis and statistics, as well as streaming audio and video.

"This is a unique way to target a market with an expert, and it will open up a whole new arena of the way people view wireless services," says John Garcia, Sprint senior vice president, sales and distribution, Sprint consumer solutions.

The agreement is still very much a work in progress, with details to be hammered out in early 2005, including pricing, which phones will be tied into the service, and what content will be included.

John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president of advertising sales, new media and consumer products, says he expects the service to be available in the second half of 2005.

Garcia says the video quality is currently 15 frames per second, good enough for highlights and fast on-the-field and court action. Skipper says that rights-holder issues and agreements with ESPN affiliates will require some sensitivity in approaching ambitious offerings like live access to ESPN's cable channels through the phones.

"I think we’ll launch with news, scores, data and some highlights and edited versions of things that appear on television," he says. He says ESPN Mobile has some league rights to offer features like near-live scoring and highlights, but work remains to be done with other leagues.

Skipper says the new service won’t affect ESPN offerings through other wireless providers, but there will be some exclusive content available to ESPN Mobile subscribers.