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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Browns vs. Broncos: First NFL Game on Sprint Phonecast

NFL on sprint

Are Sprint Subscribers ready for some football?

Tonight, the National Football League will make history when it broadcasts the Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos  game on Sprint cell phones.
The showdown featuring Brady Quinn's first start will be the first of eight Thursday night matchups available on Sprint  this season and is the inaugural game for the five year, $500 million dollar agreement between Sprint and the NFL.
To the dismay of millions of fans, cable companies,including Brighthouse, don't feature NFL Network in any standard or premium programming packages. As a result, the only viewing options are for the game are the NFL Network,, or Sprint cellphones. Brian Rolapp, the NFL's senior vice president of digital media and media strategy told the Wall Street Journal the broadcast on Sprint links the NFL into a market waiting to be tapped.

We know a lot of fans find themselves displaced, and they are using devices like mobile phones for more tasks,  With 60% of our revenues coming from media, we'd be foolish not to do something like this.

As long as 60% of American TVs are left out of the Thursday Night game, Sprint has a marketing advantage to new subscribers. Steve Gaffney, Sprint's director of sports sponsorships, believes the exclusive phonecast deal will lure more subscribers and preserve a significant amount of their current customer base.He told WSJ that NFL fans comprise two thirds of Sprint's base and are also among the most loyal subscribers.

One key question Sprint must answer: Is the phonecast advantage strong enough to tear away those NFL fans from T-mobile, AT&T and other rivals?

As an avid sports fan and a loyal AT&T subscriber, I admit Sprint's feature is a nice perk, but not a game-changer in my playbook. With the exception of a few rabid fans, I doubt that many fans will  watch more than 20 minutes of each game, because nobody wants to stare at a small screen for three hours.

For most football fans, Sprint's phonecast would simply fill the time between driving from house to the sports bar. Phonecasts have a limited appeal to the majority of fans, because If we're desperate for the score, it's easy to pull up on our iPhone or turn to ESPN radio for the score.

*Update: Nov. 7  New York Times article reports  that Sprint lost 1.3 million customers in the last quarter. On Nov. 13, WSJ reported  Sprint's offering voluntary buyout packages to most of its employees who don't have direct contact with customers.Shares were recently up 20% at $2.39, but are still down 25% this month alone and 82% for all of 2008.

By Matt O'Hern at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

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