Mobile Interactive Group Secures Two-Year Contract Extension with ITV

Receives Regulatory Permission to Offer Phone-Paid Interactive TV
Forms Client Services Unit, Opens New R&D Centers

Mobile Interactive Group (MIG), a UK company which, as its name suggests, offers a range of mobile-based interactive services, has secured a two-year renewal of its contract with UK terrestrial broadcaster, ITV (note: the latter's name is an acronym for "Independent Television Network"), under which it provides the latter with mobile interactive services across a range of its programming, as well as consultation on mobile strategy. The contract renewal followed a competitive industry pitch.

In order to restore consumer confidence in participation TV services, following the UK's participation TV scandal, ITV claims to have undertaken a "detailed and competitive" review of how best to offer premium-rate phone-based interactive TV services "in an environment that is safe, secure and transparent." It also recently set up a unit called Interactive Telephony Limited (ITL), which is responsible for managing participation TV services associated with its programming. MIG's relationship with ITV dates back to 2005, and has seen it provide mobile interactive services for such high-profile shows as "This Morning," "I'm a Celebrity...Get me Out of Here!" and "The X Factor." It recently began providing the broadcaster with additional strategic mobile services through its subsidiaries, including 4th Screen Advertising, a mobile advertising agency, and Jigsaw, a digital solutions agency. "The tender process was lengthy, highly competitive and demonstrated that the mobile industry has not only matured, but made significant advancements in the past three years," Ann Cook, ITV's director of partnerships and interactivity, said in a prepared statement. "From the outset, it has been our intention to establish a partnership with the right provider, who could work with us to consult and advise, in what is now an extremely compliant environment. MIG's proprietary technology,

industry expertise, corporate structure and vision for the future of the mobile and digital landscape, ensures that ITV will continue to provide the latest technology, delivering optimum engaging experiences to our consumers." Added MIG CEO, Barry Houlihan: "MIG has championed the integration of mobile interactive services in the broadcast industry over the past three years and has gathered tremendous insights and knowledge of the challenges facing the market. We continuously raise the bar and help to drive consumer confidence by continuously upgrading our applications and launching new products like Refund Manager [note: for more on the latter, see [itvt] Issue 8.06 Part 2B] that enable consumers to self-serve refunds if interacting outside a live campaign timeframes."

In other MIG news:

  • The company has become one of the first companies granted permission by UK regulatory body, PhonepayPlus, to offer phone-paid interactive TV services in the UK, following that country's participation TV scandal (see article in this issue).
  • The company has named Andrew Jackson head of client services. He will be responsible for all the company's cross-sector account management, services set-up and reporting operations; and will also be tasked with overseeing the formation of a new Client Services business unit. He was previously head of viewer participation at Endemol UK, where, according to MIG, he provided delivery of services for high-profile programs, developed interactive projects from conception to completion, and managed broadcast and new media partnerships. Prior to that, he worked on developing and provisioning interactive services for the BBC, where, according to MIG, his responsibilities included identifying business opportunities, managing interactive services, building strategic partnerships with third parties, and conceiving and delivering marketing strategies. "Andrew has a sound understanding of the digital interactive landscape in the UK," MIG's Houlihan said in a prepared statement. "He brings extensive knowledge to the MIG team on how best to set up and manage client services in line with current industry regulation and policy, and to ensure best practice. The role of head of client services and the new team itself was created specifically to add value and to better serve our existing and ever-growing client base across multiple sectors, including media and entertainment, MNO's, agencies, travel, leisure, retail and professional services."
  • The company has hired Rachel Price as business development manager. She was previously UK advertising account manager at Rhythm New Media, where, MIG says, she was responsible for launching the first ever ad-funded video service on mobile, and also developed mobile video campaigns for such brands as Heat Magazine, Nissan, Coca-Cola, Nivea, Barclaycard and 20th Century Fox. She will report to MIG's business development director, Anthony Nelson.
  • The company has opened two new development centers, which it says will support its "ambitious growth plans" for the coming year. One of the centers is based in London's Waterloo neighborhood and will focus on core mobile messaging and operator-grade platform development--areas in which MIG says it plans to invest further over the coming 12 months. The other center is based in Devon and will focus on research and development for what MIG calls its "emerging businesses"--particularly its experiential and digital solutions agencies, New Toy and Jigsaw. MIG says its decision to invest in the two new facilities was in response to "the needs of its ever-increasing client base and to ensure that the company is providing cutting-edge proprietary technology to its demanding customer base." The company says that in early 2009 it plans to announce the launch of two new subsidiaries and a "host" of new technologies. "We are delighted to announce the opening of the facilities in Devon," Jigsaw's technical director, Steve King, said in a prepared statement. "Our new premises will accommodate up to 40 highly skilled IT professionals focused primarily on developing new and emerging digital and device-based applications and technologies for our partners. We felt it was important to have a separate R&D facility in order to dedicate resources to developing new platforms built for mass-market, high-value consumer interaction. It's a really exciting time for us and we plan to announce the launch of our first major new digital platform in the New Year."