BUZZTIME Thrives in the Wireless Gaming Market

13 April 2001
Getting customers to give up a few minutes of their busy lives can be quite a challenge for interactive entertainment companies. BUZZTIME, an interactive TV and wireless game developer has attempted to surmount this problem by offering its products to Sprint PCS mobile phone users.

A subsidiary of NTN Communications, BUZZTIME claims to reach more consumers on more interactive platforms than any other entertainment programmer around. The company has already signed on as a content programming partner with AT&T Broadband, Microsoft, Sun, AOL, Fox Sports, Midway Games and Fox Family Channel.

In addition, BUZZTIME has launched a full-time interactive entertainment channel that facilitates competitions between players across numerous interactive platforms, including the Internet, iTV and wireless.

BUZZTIME President Tyrone Lam says that tackling the wireless platform was a big issue.

"We had three objectives when we launched this wireless service," Lam explained. "The first was, 'Does our technology enable us to create our gaming experience in a quality form on the wireless phone?'"

He continued, "Two: 'Does the consumer like the product? Do they really enjoy playing the product?' Three was, 'Could we sign a contract with a major wireless carrier like Sprint?'"

The company was able to achieve all three objectives, Lam said, and inked a deal with Sprint PCS to offer its three trivia games over the PCS system starting in mid December. (The three games are general trivia, sports trivia and entertainment trivia.) He's also negotiating with several other wireless carriers and wireless content aggregators for the content distribution rights.

Sprint, says Lam, seems to be pleased with the deal. According to Lam, about 250,000 unique Sprint wireless customers have played at least one BUZZTIME game since the product was launched, representing probably 20 to 30 percent of Sprint's wireless customer base. Players average a five-minute stay, while BUZZTIME sees about 2,000 to 3,000 unique visitors daily. Last month, customers spent about 750,000 to 800,000 minutes at BUZZTIME alone. "We think it's the most used entertainment offering on the wireless Web," Lam said.

Within the next two weeks BUZZTIME will add a new polling application, to reside in the games, that will allow the company to gather more data on the customers who play. Even so, the company has learned a few things about its players, such as the fact that the majority of players are playing on company time and they usually have a fixed payment plan for their mobile phones.

Among the feedback BUZZTIME has received from customers have been comments that players, especially the sports fans, love the games and feel like they're educating themselves while having fun. The company has also received several testimonials from players that upped their calling plan so that they could play more, saying the games "ate so many minutes."

For those wondering whether BUZZTIME will ever make the switch from free games to wagering, the answer, Lam says it's a possibility. "About five years ago, NTN Communications started a company called iWin, which was one of the first interactive wagering companies in the U.S.," he explained. "Just because of the cost to get into that business and the regulatory issues and the Kyl bill, we eventually abandoned it and sold it to a company in Australia. It's now traded on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) as eBet."

With those roots, wagering applications have been a consideration. "It's been one of those things that I've had in my tickler file for like a year, and that's to start having more discussions with those wagering companies," Lam said. "I think we'd be open to discussing that with some of those partners."

You can find out more about BUZZTIME at the company website,