Last week, Verizon Wireless launched ESPN Mobile on its V Cast service, which will provide most of the features intended for ESPN’s failed MVNO run.  At virtually the same time, Qualcomm announced that it is planning to launch LifeComm, an MVNO that will be centered on healthcare and fitnesses functions and services.  This raises the question- what makes a content-based MVNO succesful?

There is a huge market for sports programming and entertainment- NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB’s Extra Innings offer some of the most valuable programming available today.  But content alone was not enough to translate demand for sports programming into demand for a sports-based wireless service, and ESPN Mobile was quickly dropped.

On the other hand, Amp’d Mobile and Helio having gotten off to a slow start, but are starting to better establish themselves, each having had an ARPU of over $100 in 2006.  While their consumer bases are still quite small, the combination of devices with unique features (like buddy tracking) and desireable content available on these operators are very appealing to those in the 18-24 demographic that can afford them. 

Personally, I think Qualcomm’s MVNO has potential.  Like Amp’d and Helio, LifeComm has more of an interactive ’lifestyle’ play than simply a content play, and combined with devices uniquely tailored for healthcare-related functions, it too could develop a small but loyal market, especially as Americans gradually become as comfortable with the concept of MVNO’s as many abroad have.

So, I pose the question, what do people think makes an MVNO stick, and what makes one flop?