ACTV Takes a Flyer on Bottle Rocket

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ACTV Inc. cut a deal to acquire Bottle Rocket-a developer of Internet-based trivia, arcade-style, simulation and multiplayer "twitch" games-for an undisclosed sum.

Although Bottle Rocket hangs on to its brand equity, hip name and image, the New York-based gaming company now operates as a wholly owned ACTV subsidiary. Greg Easley continues as Bottle Rocket's CEO, ACTV said.

ACTV added that Bottle Rocket fits in with its enhanced-television plans. The company said it expects to integrate Bottle Rocket's content with its proprietary "HyperTV" platform, which delivers Internet content to televisions.

Bottle Rocket-which has developed more than 40 entertainment products and supports more than 600,000 registered users after launching in 1996-is no stranger to the cable industry.

The company has created a "Tamagotchi-style" game for Noggin.com, a joint venture between Nickelodeon and Children's Television Workshop, as well as online applications and games for USA Networks Inc., ESPN, MTV: Music Television, Home Box Office and Madison Square Garden Network.

Web-based gaming can be added both before and during the enhanced-television experience, ACTV chief creative officer Craig Ullman said, adding, "Bottle Rocket is incredibly synergistic to what we're doing. They've done some excellent work, and they've built a nice existing business."

Other Bottle Rocket clients include Anheuser-Busch Inc., Electronic Arts Inc., Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, StarMedia Network Inc. and The Sporting News.

Ullman said ACTV is currently incorporating Bottle Rocket's functionality with HyperTV, and is in discussions with programmers about how the company's Internet games might fit in with their consumer strategies.

ACTV is also interested in using Bottle Rocket's content to drive demand for advanced digital set-tops that house the HyperTV software plug-in.

While Bottle Rocket's games are typically free-of-charge to users, Ullman said, ACTV will generate revenue from the deal by licensing technology to programmers and selling advertising for its "sticky" content. Pay titles are also under consideration, he added

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