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Sprint passes ball to ESPN

ESPN Mobile will offer news, stats, ring tones and streaming video--and handle billing and customer relations.

ESPN is teaming up with Sprint to launch a nationwide wireless phone service for sports fans, the companies said Wednesday.

The new service, ESPN Mobile, is expected to offer news, commentary, statistics, ring tones, graphics, photos and logos, as well as streaming audio and video on mobile phones using the Sprint network. ESPN-branded handsets and accessories also will be sold.

The deal is an extension of the current partnership between the two, under which ESPN delivers both Web content and downloadable application ESPN BottomLine to Sprint users.

ESPN Mobile also will handle billing, customer relations, pricing, packaging, distribution and other operational issues under the new agreement. ESPN said its business dealings with other carriers will continue.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ESPN recently began testing its video service for wireless devices. Content providers have been trying out both downloads and streaming video as options for offering entertainment content to mobile phones and handhelds. Online sports programming has been gaining popularity as Internet companies join hands with sports channels.

"We believe ESPN's involvement in wireless will help stimulate even further consumer demand for high-speed data services," Len Lauer, chief operating officer at Sprint, said in a statement.