Sprint Aims For Brand Loyalty With Free Mobile Entertainment

Sprint Power View, a free original sports and entertainment video network for mobile phones--complete with celebrity anchors, high-profile guest hosts and a news studio in New York--is a first for the industry. Sprint Nextel hopes it will also keep customers loyal to the brand.

Reston, Va.-based Sprint Nextel partnered with IMG Media, a division of sports marketing and entertainment powerhouse IMG, to develop the network's content. It is the industry's first original mobile programming network.

"Our new brand positioning is around Sprint having the most powerful network--and with Power View, that's being passed on to the customer," said Michele Emerson, director of brand development for Sprint. She said Power View embodies three pillars of the Sprint brand: powerful networks, value offering to the customer, and innovation.

Power View's upcoming show schedule includes daily coverage of entertainment news and high-profile sporting events, with a heavy emphasis on football. In August 2005, Sprint signed a five-year deal with the NFL for content that the company says will be leveraged for Power View. Sprint already offers a free NFL mobile application to its current Vision and Power Vision subscribers.



Sprint is considering ways to incorporate advertising and cross-selling opportunities in such categories as ringtones and wallpaper. The decision to offer the content free is a landmark in mobile entertainment pricing. The content will be free for 15 million Sprint Vision and Power Vision data-package subscribers--a customer base the company calls "stickier" than the average customer.

"[Sprint Vision and Power Vision subscribers] already are loyal customers and high-end users who use their phones for more than just voice," said Sprint spokeswoman Cristi Allen. "Power View is a tremendous value add for those customers."

The company also hopes it will be a churn reducer, and that it will strengthen the Sprint brand as it marks a year since its merger with Nextel.

Offering free content is a wise strategy in the wake of recent research findings that highlight customer resistance to paying for mobile content. A recent study by JupiterResearch reported that while 11 percent of mobile phones will be video-capable in 2006, only 1 percent of mobile subscribers say they will pay for a subscription to such services.

However, in the long term, non-voice services such as headline news could help mobile data revenues reach $37.5 billion by 2010--up from $5.4 billion in 2006, according to a new report from New York-based market research firm eMarketer.

eMarketer Senior Analyst James Belcher found that growth of mobile entertainment has been limited by mobile providers' segmentation of mobile content among the music, gaming and headline news categories and incompatible platforms.

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