ESPN back in mobile game via Verizon, MediaFlo


Mobile ESPN is back on the line.

After hanging up its branded cellular phone package in September, the Walt Disney Co. is re-entering the wireless business with a pair of deals announced Thursday with Verizon Wireless and MediaFlo USA.

ESPN and Verizon are joining forces on mobile in several forms, including as part of the phone company's V Cast subscription lineup and through V Cast TV, a package of 24/7 channels being distributed by MediaFlo, a division of Qualcomm. Terms of the multiyear deals were not disclosed.

The exclusive licensing deals represent an about-face from the costly flop of Mobile ESPN, which failed to find traction among consumers and was promptly shuttered. That MVNO venture was launched with Sprint.

"For ESPN, this is the right strategy and the right carrier relationship to grow our business while serving millions of sports fans with the information they want, when and how they want it," ESPN Enterprises executive vp Salil Mehta said.

Mobile ESPN, which offered real-time sports news and video, will be resurrected on V Cast as well as other content pieces. For V Cast TV, ESPN will provide an entire channel of content, including live sporting events, though it will not be a simulcast of ESPN.

V Cast TV, scheduled to launch in the first quarter, will start off with such partners as CBS, NBC and MTV.

In other ESPN digital news, the sports network will kick off a minute-long, online iteration of its iconic "SportsCenter" on Monday, a day after the franchise marks its 30,000th episode.

Separately, newly minted CBS Mobile also announced Thursday a suite of new offerings. The new CBS Mobile Store is an online destination where consumers can download mobile games and CBS-branded wallpapers and voicetones. It also offers daily mobile video alerts featuring the funniest moments from the previous night's broadcast of the "Late Show With David Letterman."

Additionally, two new ad-supported Web sites utilizing WAP technology were launched Thursday. CBS SportsLine will feature real-time sports scores, player stats and the ability for users to control fantasy sports teams from their wireless phone. CBS News' mobile site will offer access to the full stories and images of breaking news events in near real-time.

Paul J. Gough in New York and Carly Mayberry contributed to this report.