The Superbowl wasn't just a big day for the Steelers. It was also a very big milestone for Visage Mobile, one of my investments and a group with whom I am immensely proud to have been associated during its formative years. Mobius led Visage's Series A round back in late 2002, so we have had a front row seat on the emergence of the MVNO market in the US for the past 3 and 1/2 years.
So what was the milestone? It was the nationwide launch of the ESPN post paid service with an ad during the Superbowl. For those that missed it, click over to the Mobile ESPN site and in the center bottom section titled "Sports Heaven Unveiled" click on the "Check out the commercial now" link. ESPN are placing a big bet that they can offer a truly differentiated experience to the sports fan wanting a more absorbing data experience than is currently available from Verizon and Cingular. They have inverted the carrier-content provider and taken control of the user experience in terms of handset selection, user experience and pricing. Visage are providing the flexible back office operational support that enables this customized front end experience.
Why is this important? I addressed this issue when I presented alongside Manish Jha, General Manager of Mobile ESPN at the MVNO Strategies and Market event hosted by Informa in New York back in September last year. My central thesis was that MVNOs are not a fuzzy marketing concept, but one that speaks to the fundamental economic realities of the wireless market and as such will have a profound effect on the entire industry. If you want to work through the full argument, here is the presentation. Download understanding_mvnos_in_the_mobile_value_chain.pdf
Now if only Mobile ESPN could provide me with rugby and cricket results...