FUSE LETS VIEWERS TALK BACK WITH TEXT MESSAGES

Music Video Channel Finds Surprises, Upside in SMS Deal

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Upstart music video channel Fuse has found that sometimes words can be more powerful than pictures.
Music video channel Fuse is incorporating text messsaging into serveral of its shows.

Fuse this week said it will begin to supply video content to MobiTV, a mobile TV and radio service provider for cellphones. But that wasn’t the first mobile phone marketing play the fledgling cable network has made. Last month, it launched a text-message dialogue with viewers that has proved to be a successful case study for brands looking to be top of mind anytime, anyplace.

Fuse is incorporating text messaging, or SMS technology, into “Perfect Pair,” “Dumped” and “Heavy Texting,” a trio of video-flow shows that premiered last month. It’s also incorporating text messaging into its long-running “Daily Download,” which has previously supported instant-messaging technology.

Doorway into consumer’s mind-set
Like marketers targeting a young, tech-savvy demographic, Fuse sees mobile phones as a key doorway into a young consumer’s mind-set. What’s been most surprising to Fuse executives is how readily its viewers have accepted the text-messaging components as part of their everyday routine -- anywhere and anytime.

“The kids are playing even while the show isn’t on the air,” said Lisa Choi Owens, VP-business development. “This has opened up the opportunity to communicate with people even when they’re off air.”

In “Perfect Pair,” for example, viewers can text their names and their romantic crush’s name to learn their compatibility, which is then posted on-air in the order they’re received. “Heavy Texting” offers a similar proposition, but the network describes the responses viewers will get as “spicier.”

Networks and programmers -- from MTV to syndicator 4Kids Entertainment -- have long allowed viewers to sound off on the air with instant messaging, chat and e-mail. Text messaging allows viewers to send messages from anywhere, which helps keep Fuse top of mind even when viewers aren’t in front of the TV, said Ms. Choi Owens.

Big upside in U.S.
The network’s text-messaging technology provider is Marketgraph BV, which has a prominent presence in Europe. In Europe text messaging is much more saturated, but the U.S. is catching up, Ms. Choi Owens said, and that means there’s a big upside.

“Our demo is more likely to use text and instant messaging than even e-mail,” she said. "We’re going to benefit from that.”

Text or SMS is by far the largest application used on a mobile device besides talking. According to M:Metrics, a Seattle-based mobile media consultancy, about 56 million have used text messaging in some form or fashion over the month of September.

“The preponderance of people using SMS right now is due to the fact that it’s real snacky and it’s available in almost every phone,” said Will Hodgman, president-CEO of M:Metrics. "It’s one of the broadest media as far as communications as well as advertising go.”

Not surprisingly, the 13-to-34 year-old age group is almost twice as likely to text message as the average consumer and text messengers are split almost evenly by gender, according to an M:Metrics poll of 14,000 consumers. Additionally, 30% of of all text messengers are students, the poll found.

The messages are currently ad-free but could eventually be sponsored, according to Fuse. And while the network won’t disclose the total number of viewers who are texting, the average viewer has text-messaged Fuse three to four times since the network launched the program a month ago. What the network doesn’t get is any back-end data -- access to phone numbers or demographic data -- because of privacy issues.

The next step for the network in order to keep viewers interested will include changing the content and editorial, refreshing it on a regular basis. Fuse plans on introducing new formats that could go beyond dating-oriented shows, such as interactive game show or quiz-like formats.

“Using text as a marketing tool is very powerful but it’s a double whammy when the product you’re marketing is interactive,” Ms. Choi Owens said. “You have to use nontraditional and viral forms of marketing ... to make sure the marketing tools match the type of show or product you’re trying to promote.”

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