ESPN opens its mobile playbook

Sports giant ESPN is continuing its full-court press into the mobile space. Speaking Monday at the Mobile Entertainment Live! event in San Francisco, ESPN senior vice president of digital video and mobile John Zehr said the network's wireless efforts cater to passionate sports fans "who want to experience [sports] wherever they are," emphasizing the importance of video services to deliver a rich consumer experience. "We're foremost a television company--what we do is all about storytelling," Zehr said. "What better palette to tell a story than the video screen?"

Like so many speakers at what is rapidly proving to be a low-energy, unfocused industry event, Zehr admitted ESPN has yet to determine the best game plan for delivering sports fans a mobile experience that satisfies customer priorities while maximizing the possibilities of the wireless platform, citing interactive programming as a niche that may ask too much of the average subscriber. "Consumers are going to dictate how you deliver content to them," Zehr said. "We're trying to figure out the right engagement level. We've learned there's a large group of people who simply want to lean back and be entertained."

According to Zehr, the question facing the mobile industry is whether consumers truly want an escapist experience delivered via the same device that keeps them connected with the workplace and related segments of day-to-day modern life. "Can the mobile device transcend from a tool for work into how I decide to spend my time away?" he asked. "Whether or not those two things can work together is an interesting thing to think about. Maybe these devices aren't meant to serve both masters."