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8/30/2006
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ESPN Kicks Off Mobile College Football Broadcasts

Fans can watch up to 25 complete live games per month, or about 100 for the season, in real time on their mobile phones.

As football season swings into high gear this week, live sports will make the leap from TV screens to the mobile phone.

Mobile ESPN said Wednesday it will offer a lineup of live college football games broadcast to mobile phones. This season fans can watch up to 25 complete games per month, about 100 for the season, in real-time on their mobile phones.

Through the ESPN and the ESPN2 TV sports channels, Mobile ESPN customers who subscribe to the service's $24.99 Total Sports Package will also get 200 text messages, audio and video player alerts, and 35 MG of downloadable content.

"When we negotiate the rights to broadcast the games, it's no longer just about normal television," said Rebecca Gertsmark, Mobile ESPN spokeswoman. "We're putting an increased focus on wireless, broadband and mobile technology."

The games will broadcast to ESPN mobile phones with help from third-party provider The Feedroom, which helps to deliver video content on a layer that's part of Sprint's 3G network.

Although the first in the series of college games will broadcast Monday between Florida State and Miami, some football fans remain skeptical. "College football is pretty big, but people who want to watch football will go out of their way to find a big screen TV," said Matthew Napoli, a 32-year-old avid football fan and accountant at Idylwilde Farms in Acton, Mass.

Napoli, who perks up with the mention of draft picks for Fantasy Football, isn't glued to his television on Sundays, but keeps it on as background noise to stay informed on the scores while doing stuff around the house. "I'd watch an entire game on a cellular phone if I had to take a long bus or car ride," he said. "I'm more likely to text message a friend for the latest scores or log online from my cell phone."

Research firm eMarketer Senior Analyst for Mobile Content John du Pre Gauntt doesn't believe Mobile ESPN's target customer lies on the couch watching the game in front of the TV. "They want the person at the stadium or on the go," he said. "If they broadcast the entire game, then they can also broadcast instant replays," which would let ESPN sell clips of touchdown and other plays.

Although the mobile market is young, competition and adoption are starting to accelerate. Earlier this week, AOL Inc. added fan blogs, social networking and user-generated video to its sports site.

Yahoo! Inc. also today made it easier for fans to connect with sports scores from any Windows-based cellular phone. Yahoo! Sports provides quick access to content services on football, baseball and more.

Fans can personalize the site with information on broadcast times, data and statistics to follow specific teams, says Yahoo spokeswoman Nicole Leverich. "The site has NFL show times and information, and the ability to check scores for past games," she said.

Yahoo! Sports is part of a downloadable application called Yahoo! Go for Mobile, which first launched earlier this year, but now offers integration between Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Photos.

Take a picture at a football game with any camera phone and upload it to Yahoo Photos within minutes, depending on cellular connection speeds. The photos are accessible later from any Internet-connected PC.

About 34.6 million U.S. wireless subscribers accessed the Internet from their mobile phones in June 2006, according to Telephia Inc. Sports sites ranked No. 3 in destinations for content, with more than 7.1 million visitors, trailing e-mail and weather. Yahoo! Mail took the No. 1 spot, the research firm said.

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