Is it dumb to sell radios?

What does ESPN have to do with selling radios? On the surface, not much. But they have – correction, had – a lot to do with selling mobile phones:

Walt Disney’s ESPN cable sports channel said on Thursday it will shut down its Mobile ESPN wireless telephone business operations later this year and aims to license the brand to existing mobile providers.

There is no question that the content on ESPN is highly unique and desirable. Theoretically, it was a natural match between that unique content and a dedicated and exclusive delivery channel controlled by ESPN. Why not sell custom phones uniquely branded for the product? It’s the only place you can get that product via mobile distribution.

Good in theory. Failed in practice.

So instead, ESPN is acknowledging that its strength in content can best be leveraged by maximizing the distribution of that content over as many channels as possible. That is, focus on creating compelling and magnetic content, then license the content across all distribution channels and collect the money.

What do you think this suggests to the folks in Satellite Radio over the long run?

What about the folks who are pitching HD radio – without even the benefit of major league sports, Howard Stern, Oprah, etc?

Hint: If your goal is massive penetration then the answer to the question in the title of this post is “yes.”

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