Monday, December 6, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
NTN Buzztime recently issued a "what we've done" press release that described some of their partnerships in 2010. There are certain companies that want to access the audience that is using NTN Buzztime's trivia network, and the company wanted to talk about them.
Well, most of them.
Here's part of what they DID say:
The company's recent agreements with VH1 and Activision cost-effectively tied their promotional campaigns to customized Buzztime Trendalicious Trivia games, 15-question countdown-style games featuring cutting-edge pop culture trivia.
Buzztime developed regionalized, mini-trivia network games, social media and on-site competitions for Live Nation to promote tours in specific markets. During these targeted promotions, Buzztime players interact with tour-specific on-screen advertising campaigns which provide tour visibility and awareness.
But NTN Buzztime was a little vague on another partnership:
For the fall of 2010, Buzztime designed a customizable program for a leading brewer to reach their much desired demographic of 21-34 year olds emphasizing highly targeted, interactive on-screen messaging, trivia games and hosted live trivia events.
Why was the brewer's identity suppressed? Does the brewer not want people to know that it regards some things as trivial? Are NTN Buzztime's customers worried that mention of one brewer will anger other brewers, the customers' suppliers?
Friday, November 12, 2010
A company announcement of its quarterly report consists of a company statement, followed by the numbers. You can tell when a company isn't doing all that well by looking at the first line of the company statement. If the first line says that the company is poised for growth, or that it's entering a new era, or something, then you know that quarterly performance wasn't all that good.
In that spirit, let's look at the first line of NTN Buzztime's recently quarterly report:
Company was profitable for the quarter
To long-time watchers, this is significant and is good news. Here are some other excerpts:
Revenues for the third quarter of 2010 were $6.5 million, compared to revenues of $6.7 million for the same period of 2009. The 3.2% decrease in revenue was the result of lower average revenue generated per site, a lower site count compared to the prior year period, decreased advertising revenue and a decrease
in certain non-recurring hardware sales we recognized for the period in 2009.
The Company ended the third quarter of 2010 with 4,015 subscribing venues,
compared to 4,051 at September 30, 2009, a decrease of 1.0%. During the third
quarter of 2010, installations were down approximately 26.7% while terminations
were up 38.1% compared with the third quarter of 2009. Customer churn was 6.7%
for the quarter up from 4.9% in the prior year period.
Huh? That doesn't sound good. But read on:
Gross margin as a percentage of revenue increased to 77% in the third quarter of
2010, compared to 74% in the third quarter of 2009.
Selling, general and administrative expenses were $4.7 million for the third
quarter of 2010 compared to $5.5 million for the three months ended September
30, 2009. Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased during the
three months ended September 30, 2010 primarily due to decreased sales and
marketing expenses of $258,000, lower facilities expense of $126,000 due to
reduced rent, telephone and maintenance costs, lower software disposal costs of
$135,000, decreased payroll and payroll related expense of $94,000 primarily due
to a decline in incentive compensation, lower consulting expense of $83,000 due
to reduced reliance on consultants, decreased travel expense of $60,000 and a
net decrease of $55,000 in other miscellaneous expense.
Depreciation and amortization expense (excluding depreciation and amortization
included in direct operating costs) decreased $253,000 to $163,000 for the three
months ended September 30, 2010 from $416,000 for the three months ended
September 30, 2009 primarily due to fully amortizing an intangible asset we
acquired in 2009.
Net income for the third quarter of 2010 was $124,000, or $0.00 per basic and
diluted share, compared to a net loss of $768,000 or $0.01 per basic and diluted
share in the same period a year ago.
OK, so they weren't THAT profitable. But they were profitable. And that, quite literally, is the bottom line.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Some of my best NTN experiences have been in Ottawa - sadly, at a restaurant that no longer exists. But there is a strong Canadian following for NTN, and NTN has rolled out a game for the northern set. The NTN technology allows such targeting of games to specific audiences - I believe that Buffalo Wild Wings outlets have their own games - so it's only a matter of time until I can play a California-themed game which will be completely incomprehensible to much of the rest of the planet. (Hmm..."what type of meat can be found in a double double?")
CARLSBAD, Calif., Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (Buzztime) (NYSE Amex: NTN), a leading venue-based interactive restaurant and bar entertainment network, announces a new bar trivia game for its partners throughout Canada. Buzztime's new Canada Eh? game features a mix of history, politics, sports, entertainment and geography trivia specific to the country.
The one-hour Canada Eh? trivia game, launching on October 26, 2010 will air every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30 PM ET, 5:30 PM CT, 8:00 PM MT and 7:00 PM PT. To celebrate the launch of its newest bar trivia game, Buzztime is offering prize packages valued at $25 (CDN) encouraging restaurant and bar patrons to try out Canada Eh? The more times a registered player plays the game, the better their chances are to win one of five Buzztime prize packages.
"Buzztime has been active in the Canadian hospitality arena since 1987, and we are always looking to enhance the game experience of our customers and players. The new Canada Eh? trivia game allows our Canadian partners to attract and retain new and existing clientele with relevant, compelling content," said NTN Buzztime CEO, Michael J. Bush. "We conducted research to develop the game and even polled Canadians on the name of the game. Starting today, Canada Eh? will be available to all of the 280 current locations utilizing Buzztime's bar entertainment and marketing solutions and the more than 46,000 active players."
Canada Eh? sample questions include:
Toronto's Rogers Centre showcases the world's first…
(Clues: Don't Use Bleach, Not in Left Field, Raise the Roof)
1. Revolving bleachers
2. Supersonic sound system
3. 40-story parking lot
4. Full retractable roof
5. Flip over field
He plays the lead role in the 2008 Canadian movie "Passchendaele…
(Clues: No Day at the Beach, No Will Power, Tall Paul)
1. Roy Dupuis
2. Adam Beach
3. William Shatner
4. Michael J. Fox
5. Paul Gross
The Inuit, a hunter-gatherer culture in Canada's arctic, eat `kuannig,' AKA edible…
(Clues: No Eggs and Ham, Don't Bark Up That Tree, Seaweed Salad)
1. Spruce tree bark
2. Pine tree needles
3. Walrus blubber
5. Arctic char fish eggs
For more information on NTN Buzztime, Inc and its restaurant and bar marketing and entertainment solutions please visit www.Buzztime.com. Additionally, interested parties can follow Buzztime on Twitter follow @BuzztimeTrivia or via Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Buzztimetrivia.
NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NTN) is one of the most popular interactive bar and restaurant entertainment networks. Trusted for over 25 years by restaurant, bar and pub owners, Buzztime develops trivia, card and sports games and broadcasts them on the Buzztime Network to 4,000 locations throughout North America. More than 1,000,000 registered players use a blue Playmaker or their Apple iPhone® to compete in more than 4,500,000 games each month. Players spread the word and invite friends and family to their favorite Buzztime location to enjoy an evening of fun and competition or unwind from a hectic day. Buzztime ups the fun factor – turning visitors into regulars and attracting new players every day of the week. For the most up-to-date information on NTN Buzztime, please visit www.buzztime.com.
This release contains forward-looking statements which reflect management's current views of future events and operations, including but not limited to statements about new game offerings and content, number of locations, players and games, prizes, and attracting and retaining players. These statements are based on current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. These risks and uncertainties include adverse economic conditions, failure of customer and/or player demand or acceptance of existing and new products and services, and the impact of competitive products and pricing. Please see NTN Buzztime, Inc.'s recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for information about these and other risks that may affect the Company. All forward-looking statements included in this release are based on information available to us on the date hereof. These statements speak only as of the date hereof, and NTN Buzztime, Inc. does not undertake to publicly update or revise any of its forward-looking statements, even if experience or future changes show that the indicated results or events will not be realized.
Williams Group Public Relations
SOURCE NTN Buzztime, Inc.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
NTN Buzztime gaming can be found in several regional and national chains, most notably Buffalo Wild Wings, but in many others also.
Add Native New Yorker to the list:
CARLSBAD, Calif. and GILBERT, Ariz., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NTN), a leading interactive bar and restaurant entertainment network, announced today a partnership with award-winning restaurant chain Native New Yorker. The companies have entered into a multi-year master services agreement that will further enhance the consumer dining experience in all of the current 21 sports-themed family restaurant franchise locations and future expansions.
Read the rest of the press release here. It describes the NTN Buzztime content, explains how restaurants can integrate their ads into the content, and uses big words like "targeted in-game promotions" and "proven restaurant marketing capabilities."
So who is Native New Yorker?
Founded in 1979 and headquartered in Gilbert, Arizona, Native New Yorker is one of the fastest growing franchise restaurants featuring award-winning Buffalo-style chicken wings and traditional American sports-grill favorites. Winning numerous local, regional and statewide dining awards along the way, the restaurant has grown from one location into 21 popular sports-themed restaurants in Arizona.
The chain's history is chronicled on their website. Here's how Native New Yorker began, after Judy and Floyd Anderson relocated from Buffalo to Arizona and decided to open a restaurant:
Judy and Floyd had the opportunity to buy LaMonica’s, a small, local pizza joint. Ready to begin turning their dreams into reality, they went to the bank, got approved for a loan, and took the plunge....
When total nightly sales consistently failed to break $60, they didn’t panic, knowing that building a business takes time. But as these first days turned into months, and then into their one-year anniversary without any improvement, it became increasingly difficult to keep telling themselves things would get better. Worry turned into depression, as they continued to change the menu and try every new fangled promotion they could think of. Nothing worked. Nagged by the incessant fear that they were running their finances into the ground, and with no one but creditors knocking on their restaurant door, the Andersons subscribed to the great American dream and borrowed more money.
After a valiant effort and a long, long struggle, the Anderson’s family dream was grasping for its last breaths. The money was gone. Their ideas had left them bankrupt. Their dreams now seemed nothing more than another sun-bleached skeleton claimed by the merciless desert landscape.
Then, just days before the bitter end, lightning struck. “We gave it our best shot,” was for other people. Judy decided to try one last menu promotion: Buffalo style chicken wings.
Being from Buffalo, New York, Judy and Floyd had spent many nights feasting on a local culinary phenomenon served at the now famous Anchor Bar. “If it worked there”, Judy thought, “why not here?” And with that, Judy made a trip to the local grocery store to buy enough chicken wings to test this east coast favorite on the incidental restaurant patrons they still had.
This experiment, coupled with their daughter's remembered lyrics from a 1977 disco song, were a powerful combination:
What started out as a typical Friday night in 1978, turned into a life altering event: only minutes after opening, the restaurant was filled. An hour later, there was a line at the front door. An hour after that, Floyd and Judy were looking at a two-hour wait to get into their restaurant....
Running to the phone, they called home, where Grandpa was watching the girls. Twenty minutes later, Judy was giving Debbie and Linda a crash course in table serving, Floyd was guiding Sherri through the intricacies of managing the door, and Grandpa was learning the art of chicken wing clipping and cutting, and little Jami quickly learned to answer the phones with the finesse of a seasoned switchboard operator. By the end of the night, Native New Yorker had crushed all sales records ten fold. The whole family sat down for a much deserved break and each of them, tired but too excited to collapse, knew that their two-year business struggle had come to a long awaited end.
I wonder if the early restaurant patrons brought cards to play poker.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
If you visit http://www.buzztime.com/gurus, you will find out more about the three "Buzztime gurus." There's one for trivia, one for cards, and one for sports. The "gurus" page also has links to the appropriate Facebook and Twitter pages for each guru.
If you recall the old @buzztimegirl Twitter account, that is the account that has transitioned into @buzztimetrivia (a/k/a "Red"). The companion Facebook account is also named buzztimetrivia. Not sure if Mary Campbell (see here) is still managing the account, or what Campbell's hair color or wine preferences are.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Normally when a company puts out a press release about their quarterly or annual results, they'll find the most positive thing and put it at the beginning of the press release. Perhaps sales tanked, revenue tanked, and everything else tanked, but the company will find some little itty bitty thing to trumpet.
Perhaps Michael Bush is of a different breed, but check how NTN Buzztime's most recent quarterly press release began:
"While our financial results for the second quarter of 2010 remain relatively stable overall, our termination rates and churn percentages continue to reach unacceptable levels, offsetting gains from customers acquired during the period and therefore suppressing revenue growth. Having now completed our initial strategic review of the business, we are now fully engaged in executing on key initiatives that we believe will lead to increased customer retention and acquisition which will provide long-term revenue growth from the core business. These initiatives focus maximum impact on our most important objectives to move the business forward: the user experience and the value potential that can be unlocked for our venues," said NTN Buzztime's CEO Michael Bush.
The thing that really disappointed Bush was the terminations and churn among customers - and remember that for NTN Buzztime, the "customers" are the venues that feature the games, not the game players themselves. (We don't pay to play; the venues do.)
The Company ended the second quarter of 2010 with 4,009 subscribing venues, compared to 3,871 at June 30, 2009, an increase of 3.6%. During the second quarter of 2010, installations were down approximately 7.1% while terminations were up 63.1% compared with the second quarter of 2009. Customer churn was 7.6% for the quarter up from 4.9% in the prior year period.
So how do they get customers to keep the NTN Buzztime stuff at their bars and restaurants? Cost reductions aren't necessarily going to work, and they've already done that anyway three quarters ago.
Perhaps Steve Mitgang is working on something.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I've been negligent in following all of the latest corporate moves in Buzztime-land, but they keep on a'happening. The latest one is the appointment of Steve Mitgang to NTN Buzztime's Board of Directors.
Mr. Mitgang has had a significant career in business development, marketing and advertising, managing a wide range of businesses from developing and successfully exiting venture backed firms to executing new business launches for Fortune 500 companies. Most recently, Mr. Mitgang was the president and CEO of Veoh Networks, an Internet Television company. Prior to his tenure at Veoh Networks, Mr. Mitgang worked at Yahoo! where he was the senior executive credited with creating the vision and managing the production of Project Panama, Yahoo!‘s new monetization platform. Mr. Mitgang joined Yahoo! after its acquisition of Overture Services, where he was the head of the Performance Marketing group. Prior to joining Overture, Mr. Mitgang was president and CEO of Keylime Software, a web analytics company that was acquired by Overture Services during Mr. Mitgang’s leadership. Mr. Mitgang has 26 years of experience in leading and managing a variety of consumer marketing and technology companies, driving them to sustainable profitability or successful exits.
Anyone notice anything significant about that experience list? I saw it in there at least twice.
Mr. Mitgang has had a significant career in business development, marketing and advertising, managing a wide range of businesses from developing and successfully exiting venture backed firms to executing new business launches for Fortune 500 companies.
Mr. Mitgang has 26 years of experience in leading and managing a variety of consumer marketing and technology companies, driving them to sustainable profitability or successful exits.
Hmm...lots of mentions of exits. And normally NTN Buzztime doesn't talk about exits - they want to keep patrons in the bar, playing games and buying beers, not headed toward the exit.
Perhaps this means that someone has concluded that profitability may be too much of a challenge in this economy, and that the best strategy might be to sell NTN Buzztime to someone else.
So, who wants to buy NTN Buzztime?
Monday, April 12, 2010
What if you had a job that wasn't really a job at all? I've had some good jobs over the years, and once had to watch out when I used the word "play" in reference to a job duty.
Now I haven't found the job that would let me sit around and play Buzztime trivia all day, but with a bit of tweaking, this job may come close.
We are seeking an energetic individual to join our Quality Assurance team as a Senior QA Engineer.
* Develop test cases and procedures from specified project documentation
* Coordinate all testing resources for assigned projects
* Execute test cases and procedures
* Accurately report and track defects throughout development life cycle
* Report red flag issues to management
* Attend product/project meetings
* Collaborate with the development team to define, document and continually improve the internal development process
* Keep up-to-date with competitive products, technical literature and standards
The Bottom Line
The Sr. QA Engineer will be responsible to create and implement test plans and procedures based on specific project documentation. This involves review and comprehension of functional requirements including use sequence diagrams and use case specifications. Engineers are responsible for ensuring software bugs are reported, tracked and resolved according to QA life cycle procedures.
Now I currently work for a company that creates automated fingerprint identification systems, and we have a full complement of QA engineers ourselves. I worked closely with them during my years in product management, and am well aware of their work on test cases, test scripts, and the like.
But our QA engineers didn't go out to the FBI or state law enforcement agencies or whatever to do their testing. Their testing was performed in a corner of the production floor of our company facilities.
Similarly, I'd bet that the NTN Buzztime Senior QA Engineer will get a cubicle in Carlsbad and a space on the production floor to do her or his work, and won't be coming out to your local Buffalo Wild Wings to put the bar machines through their paces.
But perhaps an on-site QA job would be nice - for a time. I'm sure that after a few months, or even a few weeks, an endless round of Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants would be tiring.
Monday, March 15, 2010
There are varying definitions of "real-time," depending upon your industry. If you are a computer aided dispatch user, "real time" might be measured in seconds - if you measure it in minutes, someone could die.
NTN Buzztime trivia is not quite a life-or-death situation, so they're happy to measure "real-time" on a month-by-month basis. But in this case, that's good enough.
In a blog post, the Buzzers discussed their new Friday night game Trendalicious Trivia. It originated in a one-time Twilight trivia contest, which produced some interesting results:
We came up with a plan to hijack the half-hour Countdown game after Spotlight on Friday nights in November to see how many of our players were Twi-hards like us.
Fast forward four weeks and we found that game play, registrations and interactions with our social media pages increased quite a bit. Why? It wasn’t about catering to a demographic or even bowing down to pop culture per se. It was about relevance – pure and simple.
So they created the Trendalicious Trivia game on a permanent basis.
Airing Friday nights after Spotlight, Trendalicious will focus on one topic per month — sometimes broad (think the debut month’s 90’s topic) and sometimes specific (ala Twilight). The objective here is to test players about the things that are being talked about out in the world, at the moment, whether it’s vampires or vacation spots.
As we evolve the game, we envision themes and content that are culturally relevant, challenging and most-importantly fun.
However, I'm sure that some people will be angered by the game BECAUSE of its relevance. If you play Buzztime trivia frequently enough, you'll eventually run into questions that you've seen before, which increases your chances of winning. Presumably that won't happen in Trendalicious Trivia, so frequent fliers won't do as well as they do on some of the other games.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
A little cryptic note in a March 4 blog post from NTN Buzztime:
Welcome Ladies and Gentleman to Part One (of a Three-part series) of our Sports blog covering NCAA basketball March Madness! The goal of this blog is to help you when it’s time to fill out your bracket and eventually to beat our new product ‘The Pulse” (stay tuned…).
As this promo shows, the game takes real-time information (such as a current sports score) and matches trivia questions to it. I've never played QB1 (the NFL-based game), but it's presumably similar to that.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
As of today, I am heavily involved in FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks.
In the past, I have been heavily involved in Yahoo, various bulletin board systems, and the network news system accessible via Reed College (precursor to Usenet).
Now most of the systems that I named above didn't even exist in the late 1980s, but there is one social network from the late 1980s that I didn't list.
Since you're reading this in the Empoprise-NTN blog, you can probably guess which network I'm talking about.
Here's how the Buzztime blog puts it:
Buzztime is a network of people from all over North America – competing, interacting… socializing, Sound familiar? Ends up we were onto something waaaay back in 1986… we just hadn’t labeled it “social network.”
An oft-used quote during a typical Buzztime product meeting goes something like this: ”We were a social network before people knew what a social network was.” We think that’s pretty spot-on.
Of course, the one difference between the Buzztime trivia network and, say, FriendFeed is that you don't have to go through extra hoops to hold a meetup.
[We] give our network of players a product by which to socially interact… in person… away from the computer and out in the world, and you’ve got a perfectly functioning network of networks. Let us illustrate:
Create game network –> players play games on network –> meet other players –> form social network –> social network facilitates players gathering to play game network –> repeat.
And there you have it – traditional in-your-face social networking, with all of the bells and whistles that actually come from physically being with actual people… socially. Brilliant.
So, what we’re trying to say is “We Win,” and we’re calling shotgun on the whole “First Social Network” thing.
Of course, once you state that the "computer" in a social network can be a Playmaker, you can extend the concept and say that the computer could be a quill pen. Then you can go back well before 1986...
Monday, January 18, 2010
I am cursed with being a Washington Redskins fan, and I remember reading an observation that because of the myriad changes in the Redskins' coaching staff over the years, the players have to learn a new offensive strategy fairly frequently - sometimes every year or so. So just when you have mastered the instructions of the current offensive coordinator or head coach, they get shipped out and the new offensive coordinator or head coach implements a brand new strategy that you have to learn.
But this doesn't just happen with the Redskins. Far from it:
CARLSBAD, Calif., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NTN) today announced that Terry Bateman, Chief Executive Officer, has announced his intention to resign. Mr. Bateman will remain active on the Board of Directors and be involved in finding his replacement. The Board of Directors...expects this process to be completed in the second quarter of 2010....
"We have made considerable progress towards achieving our operating objectives, and I continue to believe in the fundamental strength of the business," said Terry Bateman. "I am stepping down for personal reasons, but will remain on the Board of Directors to help oversee the strategic initiatives put in place over the last year, and I will also participate in the search for my successor, in order to ensure a smooth transition. I remain confident in the Company's continued success."
"Terry has been instrumental in the turnaround of NTN Buzztime's business and has been a tremendous leader," noted Chairman Jeff Berg. "The positive effects that Terry has had on the business are substantial, as underscored by our performance in the fourth quarter of 2009, which is expected to show EBITDA higher than any recorded in the past six quarters, as well as positive cash flow. While we are disappointed to see him leave, we understand and respect his decision, and look forward to his participation as an active, non-executive member of the Board, where his advice and judgment, informed by his tenure as CEO, will be tremendously valuable."
Thus ends the Bateman era - or, more accurately, the Bateman blip. This blog has covered the entire Bateman blip, beginning with his October 2008 appointment to the Board of Directors, the November 2008 appointment of Bateman to participate in a strategic analysis (at the same time that Jeff Berg became Chairman of the Board after Michael Fleming's departure), Bateman's February 2009 appointment as CEO, the beginnings of a new strategy in March 2009, the acquisitions in April and May, and - most importantly - the strategic reduction in pricing that decreased revenue, but upped the site count.
So now they're going to bring in a new CEO. It's only been about 11 months since they brought in the last CEO. Heck, Lane Kiffin stayed at Tennessee for 14 months.
Now perhaps Bateman's departure was unavoidable. We'll probably never know, because whenever someone cites "personal reasons," the implication is that you can't ask what those reasons were.
But while Berg, Bateman, and the rest may be hoping that they can get a CEO who carries out the old strategy to the letter, CEOs don't work that way. Any CEO worth his or her salt is going to want to implement his or her own personal strategy. And for all we know, that strategy may be the exact opposite of the Bateman strategy.
So we'll wait and see...