MobileESPN, R.I.P: 2005 - 2006

Whoa Nellie. The folks who scooped Disney's ESPN-branded cellphone service -- MobileESPN -- are now calling for "big changes" in the MVNO. According to Rafat Ali and Staci Kramer who cite "numerous sources," the doomed MobileESPN MVNO is set for "a phased winding down/transition, or getting sold" outright this week, just before Disney's fiscal year draws to a close. A spokeswoman for MobileESPN confirmed an announcement was coming, most likely on Thursday, and that staff would not be laid off this week contrary to rumors. Merrill Lynch already asked Disney to pull the plug in a research note published back in July estimating that MobileESPN had only snagged 30,000 of the 240,000 anticipated subscribers since its Superbowl launch representing a loss of some $135 million for The Mouse. All this is potentially bad news for the likes of Amp'd Mobile and Helio who may be in for an MVNO backlash on The Street where investor sentiment is already pretty low. Oh BJ, not you and the Bear too?

Update: Just minutes after we posted the article above, Disney officially dropped the ax on MobileESPN, and the happiest place on earth is just a little bit gloomier today. According to an open letter on the MobileESPN homepage, cellular service will stop as of December 21st, although all that great content that you handful of subscribers have come to enjoy day in and day out will soon be available through one of the major carriers. Meanwhile, existing customers are free to drop the service anytime before the end of the year without penaltly, and once your bills are all paid up, the soon-to-be-defunct MVNO will refund the full cost of your handset. Epitaph: MobileESPN, we had such high hopes for ye, but your glass jaw made a first round KO inevitable. R.I.P, sweet, failed telecom experiment.

[Via GigaOM]