Disney shuts down mobile venture


NEW YORK -- Disney is canceling its Disney Mobile MVNO service, the company said Thursday, but it plans to find a new way to use the programming.

The service joins ESPN Mobile as the second Disney MVNO project that has been shuttered in less than a year.

The conglomerate said that "critical and consumer" reaction have both been mostly positive to the service, which runs on the Sprint network and provides applications that let parents monitor and limit their children's phone use through the Family Center suite. According to the Walt Disney Internet Group, the project, which launched in June 2006, was harmed by a competitive market.

Said Steve Wadsworth, president of the WDIG: "The MVNO model has proven, as we've seen with other companies, to be a difficult proposition in the hyper-competitive U.S. mobile phone market. In assessing our business model, we decided that changing strategies was a better alternative to pursue profitable growth in the mobile service area."

Disney will now explore "a new business model" for the Family Center product and may partner with "a major U.S. carrier," much like how ESPN changed its mobile strategy.

The Disney-owned sports network relaunched its ESPN Mobile service and renamed it MVP in May, offering video clips and highlights to Verizon VCast subscribers at no extra cost. That network's first try, an MVNO, lasted just over a year before being shut down in December 2006 due to meager subscription numbers.

A mobile virtual network operator is a service that uses a cellular phone's network to deliver content to a subscriber base, rather than an add-on to an existing service.

Disney is not the only company that has failed to gain a foothold in this market. Amp'd Mobile, a youth-targeted MVNO run on Verizon's network, was canceled in August and, also last month, EarthLink's Helio service laid off 100 employees.

Disney Mobile will be operable until Dec. 31 and customers who are eligible for reimbursements will be able to find more information on the Disney Mobile Web site next month.