GoldPocket Wants to Spur ITV

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With the acquisition of Mixed Signals Technologies Inc. under its belt, GoldPocket Interactive Inc. plans to publish the standard for its EventMatrix software at the National Association of Broadcasters convention next month, in an effort to spur increased interactive-TV activity.

According to GoldPocket CEO Scott Newnam, the company's goal is to entice content providers to write ITV applications for all set-top boxes — including the wide base of 2000 series boxes already deployed. "We want to drive digital subscribers to the MSOs," he said.

GoldPocket, a private ITV company partially funded by AOL Time Warner Inc., provides interactive content and advertising for TBS Superstation's programming, including Friends
and its "Dinner & a Movie" franchise.

Acquired in February, Mixed Signals had done pioneering interactive work with Game Show Network in the past. The combined company's client list includes CBS, Bravo, NBC, Fox, Sony Corp., The WB Television Network, Comedy Central, Home Box Office, Discovery Communications Inc. and Showtime Networks Inc. The company also has a 75 percent share of the ITV content creation market, producing 160 hours per month.

Far from being dead, Newnam said interest in ITV has been rising among advertisers because of concerns over digital video recording devices and video-on-demand. "The business has really started growing over the past four to five months," he said.

GoldPocket's purchase of Mixed Signals is part of a Darwinian process, he said. "The recession has led to consolidation in larger companies winning the business across the entire landscape."

Two years ago, GoldPocket had 20 potential middleware providers to work with. Now that's been reduced to a handful, he said. "It's clear who's going to win."

The soft advertising market and the threat of DVRs and VOD have advertisers "demanding a better experience," Newnam said. "They want to understand how to retain audiences during commercials. And advertisers are trying to get a value for their dollar. Over 90 percent of interactive-TV viewers stay through commercials."

In one of its efforts, GoldPocket worked with Domino's Pizza, which sponsored a Win Ben Stein's Money
contest on Comedy Central.

During the pizza chain's commercials, viewers scored points for answering simple questions, such as when's the last time they ordered pizza. "The sponsor gets greater retention and gets more information on users," Newnam said.

Newnam has moved GoldPocket's headquarters from Massachusetts to Los Angeles "to drive the business where the studios are." At the same time, he's been working more with advertisers, trying to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

Newnam said it takes time to build an ITV audience. "If you run past 10 to 12 shows, you start to see an exponential jump in activity and 60 percent to 90 percent retention rates," he said.

GoldPocket and Proctor & Gamble Co. recently worked together on a campaign that ran during TBS Superstation showings of Friends. P&G advertised one new product a week over a 13-week period, testing various interactive TV pitches, Newnam said.

In addition to P&G and Domino's, GoldPocket counts automakers Kia and Audi as major interactive TV clients.

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