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Disney Says Mobile ESPN Sales Lagging

July 21, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Walt Disney Co. said sales of its 6-month-old Mobile ESPN cellphone service had lagged behind forecasts.

"While sales have been slower than expected, we have added retail distribution outlets, introduced a new thin handset and have enhanced marketing efforts," Mobile ESPN spokeswoman Rebecca Gertsmark said Wednesday.

Disappointing results from the ESPN phone business prompted Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Jessica Reif Cohen to call for the service to be shut down. Mobile ESPN will have 30,000 users by year's end, she estimates, compared with the 240,000 she predicted when Disney started it in February. It will cost the company about $80 million this year, she said in a report.

The service, which runs on Sprint Nextel Corp.'s wireless network, provides users with scores, news and video clips from sports cable channel ESPN.

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