Friday, June 20, 2008

NTN (Buzztime) circa 1991

I didn't start playing NTN Buzztime until I started making regular trips to Canada in 2000 or so. But I found a post from someone who was playing the games much earlier.

sbroox discussed experiences in British Columbia back in 1991 with an earlier version of the devices.

I spent the better part of 1991 in Campbell River, BC. The hotel I was living at, the Anchor Inn, had a wireless trivia system in their lounge that was administered by a company called NTN....

The setup was similar to what we know today. People in the lounge would compete against each other, and the lounge would compete against other bars and lounges throughout North America (and the UK - see below).

Then sbroox spouts something that an NTN Buzztime marketer would love:

This is exactly the sort of interactivity that engages people and makes them stay longer at a bar, return more frequently, and invite other people along.

However, there is a cost involved, since the bars have to pay NTN Buzztime for the privilege of hosting their services. And while many establishments have been able to justify the cost via increased business, others have not.

See the rest of sbroox's post, which talks about bar trivia in general, here. Also see the followup post on an ineffective loyalty program.

Incidentally, when I first wrote this post, I stated that as of 1991, NTN was only available in the US and Canada. I was wrong.

[S]ome [forum] contributors refer to a previous attempt to launch this style of quiz by the name of 'Twin Network'. This was commenced in 1991 and was a joint project between NTN, Twin Network Limited (part of the Whitbread Group). I have found media references to it before 1994 but then the trail goes cold. I cannot find as to why it was not successful (I have searched two on-line news database).

I was able to find this in a 1997 press release:

A 12-year veteran of NTN, [Dan] Purner was previously vice president of production, charged with the responsibility for in-house product development and production for all NTN interactive products. From 1990-1993, he managed NTN's involvement in the Twin Network, a joint venture between BBC Enterprises and Whitbread in the United Kingdom. In 1993, he was named director of programming at NTN.

And I found this in the beginning of a July 1, 1991 article:

Interactive entertainment is being transmitted to television screens in 85 UK pubs by Twin Network, new joint company formed by BBC and Whitbread. Digital data is broadcast by BBC to receivers in pubs, with customers using hand-held computerised control to interact with live sports events--in first instance, racing at Ascot.

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