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ESPN Mobile phone service rings in soon

LOS ANGELES -- ESPN will launch its own branded wireless phone service next year, the first in a series of branded cell phone services planned by The Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN.

The service, dubbed ESPN Mobile, will use the enhanced Sprint
nationwide PCS network, Sprint and ESPN said Wednesday.

The venture will sell ESPN-branded handsets, accessories and
applications, including access to sports headlines, photos, ring
tones and streaming audio and video over Sprint's high-speed data
network.

Like many companies, ESPN already provides games, ringtones, and other content to wireless devices using various mobile networks.

The new service will include the underlying phone service and
customers will receive bills directly from ESPN Mobile, which will
also handle customer relations, distribution and other operational
aspects of the business.

ESPN will also offer special branded handsets. The company has
not yet chosen which handset makers it will use or the final
design.

"This enhances our mandate to serve fans anytime, anywhere, and Sprint's leadership in this medium will help lay the foundation for
our success," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said.

Disney owns 80 percent of ESPN. The Hearst Corp. owns 20 percent
of the company.

Disney has been exploring other wireless ventures, including
branded Disney mobile phone service.

The company already offers a wide range of branded consumer
electronics, including computers, digital cameras, television sets,
and DVD players.