ESPN Mobile Finally Shuffles Off This Mortal Coil

You know, sometimes news in this world breaks, and it's the most shocking event you can imagine. You have to read the story two or three times to make sense of it; can that really be happening? Your fundamental reality changes, and you interpret all that comes afterwards with this new, different slant.

And sometimes the sun simply comes up.

Mobile ESPN, a start-up cellphone company backed by Walt Disney Co., will announce as soon as Thursday that it is closing down operations, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The newspaper said Mobile ESPN is hoping to reinvent itself as a content partner of bigger wireless carriers, citing people familiar with the matter. ESPN could not immediately be contacted.

The story was originally reported by Paid Content and confirmed by WSJ this morning.

It's funny, too: We were JUST about to buy one. We know it's a little late, but, you know, seeing Dan Le Betard being interviewed yesterday while an ESPN Mobile phone flashed on the screen finally convinced us; we think maybe we just hadn't been exposed enough to it yet.

By the way, we have no idea what happens if you're one of the 30,000 people — whom ESPN spent $150 million to grab — who bought one of these phones. Paperweight?

Major Change Coming At Mobile ESPN [Paid Content]
Mobile ESPN To Close Down Operations [Reuters]

(UPDATE: ESPN big dog honcho man George Bodenheimer has announced the end of ESPN Mobile to his employees in an internal memo. That internal memo is after the jump.)

————————————————————————————-
______________________________________________
From: Bodenheimer, George
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2006 10:15 AM
Subject: Mobile ESPN

Growth and innovation often involve taking risks and ESPN has not shied away from aggressively seeking to improve our business at any point in our history. Mobile ESPN was one such undertaking with many challenges and in the best tradition of ESPN the Mobile team built the finest wireless service for sports fans.

However 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. Taking all of this into account and after careful consideration, we have decided to change direction and turn Mobile ESPN into a licensed wireless application to be offered by one or more major national carriers. This shift will allow us to get Mobile ESPN's critically acclaimed content to many more fans much more quickly.

Consequently, Mobile ESPN will no longer operate as a service provider after December 31, 2006. Until then, we will continue to offer voice and data service to all Mobile ESPN customers, including many of you. We will maintain in-depth communication to employees and customers within the next 30-60 days to ensure the transition to a new carrier is as easy as possible. All purchasers of a Mobile ESPN handset will receive a refund of the full purchase price.

For help addressing any questions you may have, please check ESPNField NEWS beginning Monday, October 2.

While we believe this decision is the right one for our business, we fully recognize that it impacts the lives of many of our Mobile colleagues and their families. We will work with each of them to help manage this transition and look for other opportunities within ESPN as may be appropriate. I would like to thank all of them for a remarkable job in conceiving and launching this product. We are very proud of all you have accomplished.