Tennis Channel Launches Game for Mobile Phones

Partners With Bellrock Media to Create 'Turbo Tennis'

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Bellrock Media has created an alliance with the Tennis Channel to launch "Turbo Tennis," a $5.99 mobile game that includes ads for the Tennis Channel. In return, the Tennis Channel will market the game in TV ads on the channel, as well as on a website and through a Tennis Channel newsletter and live events.
Bellrock's 'Turbo Tennis' game will carry ads for the Tennis Channel.
Bellrock's 'Turbo Tennis' game will carry ads for the Tennis Channel.

"It's a really nice extension of our brand," said Lynn Forbes, Tennis Channel's VP-web and new media, which reaches 10 million TV households.

'Not just a license'
Peter Levin, president, Bellrock Media, said his company is trying to adopt a new model for mobile games through strong partnerships with media companies. "It's not just a license," he said. Media partners will have more "invested in the property if they have skin in the game."

A recent study by the NPD Group, found that one of the reasons as many as two-thirds of the nation's 200 million cellphone subscribers have never played a game on their cellphone is because they are unaware of where to find one.

The mobile-game market was less than $25 million in 2003, but is expected to reach $350 million by the end of this year, according to JupiterResearch. In a study earlier this fall, the research firm saw a number of positive signs for mobile games, among them an increase in the number of handsets capable of using the games, from 44% in 2005 to 70% by the end of this year.

'Short, satisfying sessions'
The JupiterResearch study, however, indicated the number of users purchasing games was expected to slow. "Although the computing and display capabilities of cellphones today are very high, the devices are suboptimal for game play," the study said. The most popular games on cellphones: Tetris, Bejeweled, Solitaire, Texas Hold 'Em and Pac-Man are the five top-selling cellphone games "because they are fun, have high replay value, and can be played in short, satisfying sessions," the study concluded.

"It's an interesting way for marketers to showcase brands," said Michael Gartenberg, VP-research director, JupiterResearch. "Consumers increasingly are interested in casual games and will pay for content going forward," he said.

However, some industry experts note that consumers might be more inclined to accept advertising in subsidized, or even free, games.

Price becomes a turnoff
Roger Wood, senior VP, American Region, Amobee, a firm dealing in ad-funded mobile content, cautioned marketers about the high price of mobile games. A full-length Hollywood video can be downloaded to a PC for just $4.99 and a professionally produced music track costs just 99 cents on iTunes, he said. "For every person who paid $5 for a [mobile video] game, there are 50 who would download the ad-funded version."

Ms. Forbes, however, stood by her decision to charge for the mobile game. "It's not a promotion or an advertisement," she said. "It's a true product."
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