The Worldwide Leader apparently isn’t so tough on someone else’s turf. ESPN threw in the white towel yesterday on its ubiquitously-hyped mobile phone, which was aimed at crazed, fantasy-fueled sports fans with too much money. ESPN Mobil couldn’t find enough of them to make money, not after investing a reported $150 million in the product (along with a Disney-themed phone), so the network said yesterday the service would be shut down in December.
It was a bold try; give ESPN credit for that. But it was a long-shot from the beginning. The product competed with cell stalwarts Cingular and Verizon, which were less expensive and offered their own sports updates. ESPN Mobil had exclusive content but not enough to justify an extra $30 per month over my regular cell bill. Moreover, the network’s marketing genuii might want to think harder next time they sign an actor to play their targeting consumer. That disheveled, obsessive crazy guy that hung outside ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol in commercials touting the phone (and trying to get an on-air tryout) was not exactly the kind of figure that made someone say, “Hey, I want to be like that guy.” Instead of saying, Buy this and be cool, those spots seemed to say, “This is the kind of wacko who buys this phone.” The Shaun Alexander and Reggie Bush ads that aired of late were cool. But it was clearly too little too late.