ESPN Considers Subsidizing Wireless Plans For Heavy Video Users

Does anyone remember Mobile ESPN? Believe it or not, ESPN was actually acting as an MVNO way back in 2006, sending specific sports-related alerts to users on flip-phones and dumb-phones, a year before the iPhone changed everything we know about the mobile arena. That venture didn't last too long, and as smartphones became the norm, ESPN focused efforts on simply polishing up mobile apps that could send push alerts. Essentially, it accomplished the same thing, but with a lot less of the burden on ESPN itself.

But evidently there's an itch here that ESPN just can't help but scratch once more. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that ESPN is considering subsidizing wireless data plans for those who stream a lot of video and audio. Things like WatchESPN and the ESPN Radio app both pull down massive amounts of data, and it's ESPN who loses when people start to ignore those apps due to being mindful (or just scared) of their monthly data cap. The report suggests that ESPN is talking with at least one carrier about subsidizing data plans, with the idea being any data used to view ESPN content not counting against the monthly allotment.

It's unclear if the arrangement is going to work out -- there are a lot of pieces in play, and the economics of such a deal are obviously complex. While this may seem interesting now, it's likely to usher in a new way of paying for data. Instead of a user paying for a bucket that everything touches, advertisers or content creators could chip in and help out if the wireless user is a subscriber of that particular service. At one point, mobile share plans were considered a pipe dream, and now they're a reality. Something tells us this type of situation is just a few years away at most.