Monday, May 13, 2013

Disney Wants to Pay Your Cell Phone Bill

Of all your regular monthly utility bills, your cell phone bill is probably one of the larger ones. That's certainly true for me, since I pay for a family plan with five lines and I use a healthy amount of data. Well, good news for mobile consumers: Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) might be willing to help foot the bill.

Perhaps the most data-hungry activity that people do on their mobile gadgets is watch video content. Watching a handful of episodes of Game of Thrones using your cellular data is bound to run into your data cap rather quickly, and then you start getting hit with overage fees.

Specifically, sports fans may be on the receiving end, as ESPN is reportedly in talks with wireless carriers to subsidize data plans by allowing its mobile content to not be counted toward data limits, so says The Wall Street Journal. That would let users catch the game without worrying about going over, and ESPN would cover the difference.

Disney is the majority owner of ESPN, so most of that cost would fall on Mickey's shoulders. The iconic animator's broader media networks segment, which includes the results from ESPN, comprised 47% of revenue last quarter and 74% of operating income, making it the biggest cash cow.

No wireless carrier was named specifically, but it's fairly easy to narrow down the candidates. The top two carriers, AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) Wireless, are the ones fully embracing data caps and tiered pricing plans. Not only that, but they're also both pushing their pricey shared data plans, which tend to cost more per gigabyte. The WSJ does note that both Ma Bell and Big Red have expressed interest in deals of this nature before.

The smaller two, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) and T-Mobile (NYSE: TMUS  ) , pitch unlimited data plans as a point of differentiation as part of their respective value propositions. T-Mobile still throttles speeds after you hit a certain threshold, but subscribers can pay to raise or eliminate that line in the sand. Sprint, on the other hand, is all-you-can-eat.

Nothing's set in stone yet, but mobile sports viewers may get some good news eventually.

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