Friday, May 30, 2008

McDuff. Stout McDuff.

Remember how I lamented the fact that Double Decker's in Ottawa apparently dumped NTN Buzztime when it became another site? Well, that story isn't always repeated as buddyfeed noted:

My favorite bar in Buckhead, McDuff’s, recently passed on and in it’s wake comes Stout Irish Sports Pub. Stout Irish Sports Pub....

"...will provide a full premium bar including a wide selection of over 50 beers, dark ales, refreshing lagers and rich stouts on draft and available in bottles. Miller High Life beers are always $1. In addition to a welcoming patio, the main bar features 19 TVs with international satellite, a pool table, dart boards, Golden Tee, NTN Buzztime Trivia and juke box while the lower level game room offers three additional pool tables, Pac Man & Galaga, a private bathroom and its own cocktail waitress."

Holy crap, that bar sounds exactly like McDuff’s. That is genius idea to replacedan irish pub, with well another irish pub.

Hopefully things will work out. Keep posted.

Fleming. Michael Fleming.

All's not quiet on the NTN Buzztime front.

Not too long after NTN Buzztime announced Dario Santana's forthcoming departure, they're announcing some other changes:

CARLSBAD, Calif., May 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc.
(Amex: NTN) today announced that former Sony Pictures Entertainment executive
and interactive games pioneer Michael Fleming has been named Chairman of the
Board of Directors and interim Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Fleming, a
Buzztime Board director since November 2001, will assume these positions and
responsibilities effective immediately.

After all of the made-up quotes, the press release continued:

Former CEO Dario Santana has resigned from the Company's Board of

It was also announced that Barry Bergsman, Chairman of the Board since
July 2006, will step down from that position and remain on the Board.

Fleming's chief qualification, other than being around and available, is apparently that he previously served "as the recent Chairman and co-founder of Contendo Vici LLC, a fantasy sports game development and production company." He also founded the Game Show Network and worked for Playboy, ESPN, and a slew of other companies.

Here are excerpts from a 2000 article on Michael Fleming that noted how the Game Show Network was riding the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" wave:

Clenching his fist in celebration, Game Show Network President Michael Fleming looks at the numbers on a piece of paper with a sense of wonder.

They're television ratings from the night before, but have nothing to do with his network. Rather, they indicate another stunningly large audience for ABC's quiz craze, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." For Fleming, that's the next best thing....

In December [1999], the Game Show Network was added to cable systems in 1.8 million homes, nearly double the best month ever in its five-year history. Roughly one-quarter of the nation's television homes have access to the network.

But this little nugget is interesting for NTN Buzztime lovers:

For the future, the Game Show Network is counting heavily on an interactive television world where people will be able to play along with their games at home.

Only a small fraction of viewers now have the digital equipment necessary to do this, but the network is catering to them. "Inquizition" allows contestants at home to compete with players on the show, and win cash prizes.

The network is even going back to the tapes of old game shows to concoct ways viewers can play along. It expects the new games the network develops to all have some interactive element.

For the record, I participated in one of the first experiments in interactive TV. I was living in Portland, Oregon during the summer and fall of 1983, and I had subscribed to cable because my second-hand black and white TV set had a broken tuning dial, and I got tired of changing the channel with pliers. When I wasn't watching Martha Quinn, I remember watching some kind of public access show in which we could use our cable remote controls to vote on something or another.

Hardly anybody voted.

Hopefully Michael Fleming will have better success with interactive TV.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Empoprise-NTN Gets a Room

Empoprise-NTN Gets a Room? Yes.

Earlier today, FriendFeed publicly announced its "rooms" capability, which allows you to create public or private rooms that are dedicated to a specific topic. More information here.

As you may know, this blog already has its own Disqus discussion area, but I figured that I'd try to create a dedicated FriendFeed room, just to see what would happen.

And, by the way, if you see a similar post on my Empoprise-IE blog...yes, I created a room for that blog also.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Before the Buzz

Since I've been talking about history in my Inland Empire blog, I might as well talk about history here too.

I started playing NTN games such as Countdown probably around 2002, but Aimster (The Harness Kid) has been playing for a longer time:

I've been playing since the late 90's when it was called NTN Trivia (they changed the name to Buzztime a couple years ago). Been a Players Plus member (where you can earn points and compete for prizes and stuff) since 2002.

(By the way, I couldn't find a site for Aimster, but Midnight the Wonderpup has a MySpace page.)

But regarding the name, here's what Yahoo's company profile says:

The company was founded in 1983 as Alroy Industries and changed its name to NTN Communications, Inc. in 1985. Further, the company changed its name to NTN Buzztime, Inc. in 2005.

Well, Alroy Industries goes way, way back. Way back:

NTN Communications, Inc. was originally incorporated under the name Alroy Industries, Inc., and the original Certificate of Incorporation of the corporation was filed with the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware on April 13, 1984.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

NTN Buzztime on the Trade Show Circuit

NTN Buzztime has issued a multimedia press release.


Buzztime (Amex: NTN), a multi-point social interactive entertainment company, announces the addition of customizable screens to its popular interactive game network. Buzztime will demonstrate the new technology at the 2008 National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago May 17-20 (booth #431). Buzztime-subscribing bars and restaurants can now display their own customized advertising and promotions on their wide-screens TVs, presented alongside Buzztime's fun and engaging trivia, sports, and casino-style games.

"Buzztime is providing a single solution combining entertainment, branding and sales messages to help restaurant and bar owners increase revenues. It is truly ground breaking for the hospitality marketplace and timely given today's economy," says CEO Dario Santana. "With this enhancement, venues have complete and immediate control of their promotional messages, which are positioned alongside our interactive and engaging games. By bundling bar and restaurant-themed advertising with our games, customers are more focused on the messages."

Ah, but I said multimedia. Because MultiVu (associated with PR Newswire) is also distributing this video, which not only shows the advertising solution, but also demonstrates what the game is like - although the games that I usually play, Buzztime (formerly known as Countdown) and Appeteasers also offer hints.

At first I was disturbed at the fact that there was no sound in this video, but then I realized that this was a true and accurate demonstration of the product. Think of your average sports bar, in which one of the TVs (usually the one showing the local team's game) will have sound, and all of the other TVs will be muted, allowing you to watch the game but not hear it. Well, Buzztime is an entirely sound-free activity, so as not to interfere with other things being watched on other TVs. Clever, once you realize what's going on.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dario Santana Employment Agreement Not Renewed at NTN Buzztime

I really want to talk about the NTN Buzztime games.

I really really do.

In fact, I'm even thinking about a regular scheduled series on the games (similar to something that I'm doing on my other Empoprises blog).

But, unfortunately, business issues at NTN Buzztime keep on getting in the way.

Specifically, Kent Gibbons at Multichannel News reported the following earlier today (Thursday):

NTN Buzztime said Thursday it’s terminating the employment of CEO Dario L. Santana as of July 9 after failing to reach agreement on renewal terms.

Santana, a former executive with General Instrument and Motorola Broadband and a streaming-media startup called Aerocast, came to the Carlsbad, Calif.-based interactive-TV game provider in July 2006.

The official Form 8-K read like this:

Item 5.02. Departure of Directors or Certain Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Certain Officers; Compensatory Arrangements of Certain Officers.

NTN Buzztime, Inc. (the “Company”) and Dario L. Santana, the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, were unable to reach agreement on renewal terms to the Employment Agreement, dated June 7, 2006, between the Company and Mr. Santana (the “Agreement). Accordingly, on May 9, 2008, the Company provided Mr. Santana with written notice of its election not to renew the Agreement. If neither party to the Agreement gave such notice of election not to renew by May 10, 2008, the terms of the Agreement would have resulted in the automatic extension of Mr. Santana’s employment with the Company for an additional one-year period commencing July 10, 2008. Mr. Santana’s employment with the Company will terminate at the close of business on July 9, 2008. Mr. Santana continues to serve as a director of the Company.

The Company has commenced an active search for a successor Chief Executive Officer.

The terms of the Agreement require the payment of severance and other compensation as a result of the Company’s non-renewal of the Agreement. Post-employment, if he gives the Company a general release on or promptly following his last day of employment, Mr. Santana is entitled to receive compensation equal to his current base salary for a term of 12 months plus COBRA premiums for the earlier of 12 months or until Mr. Santana becomes eligible for medical coverage with another employer. Mr. Santana’s current base salary is $400,000 per year.


Pursuant to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the registrant has duly caused this Report to be signed on its behalf by the undersigned hereunto duly authorized.


BY: /s/ Kendra Berger
Kendra Berger
Chief Financial Officer

Date: May 15, 2008

So, if you want to live in Carlsbad and believe you can resurrect a not-so-healthy company, contact Kendra Berger now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Giving the business

I know that I should be talking about the games - and I will - but I keep on running into business stuff.

On 2008-05-09, according to SC13D/A SEC filing,
TRINAD CAPITAL MASTER FUND LTD. now owns 8.80 % of NTN BUZZTIME INC (NTN) (Size: 28 mil).

Well, that's OK, but then the message went on:

NTN's one-year return is -82%/year.

NTN's 4-year return is -43%/year.

NTN's 10-year return is -5%/year.


Let's talk about NTN/Buzztime

Needless to say, this blog isn't the only place to talk about NTN/Buzztime.

Here are a few other spots:

If you have a favorite place to discuss NTN Buzztime (the games, or the company), please list it in the comments.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Double Decker's Pub and Diner, Ottawa, Ontario (R.I.P.)

I think that the first time that I wrote about NTN Buzztime in a blog was back on February 11, 2004, when I wrote the post Addictions Available in Upland in Two Days in the old Ontario Empoblog.

At the time I was not a Players Plus member, but I was planning on joining Players Plus shortly (I would join before the end of the month, becoming a member at the then-new Tequila Hoppers in Upland, California, a membership that I have maintained to this day.)

In my February 11 post, I alluded to the first place where I ever played NTN trivia:

Although I've played in Minnesota and South Carolina, I usually get my fix at Double Decker's Pub and Diner in Ottawa, Canada.

I used to go to Ottawa on business trips a lot, and Double Decker's was within walking distance of the hotel where I stayed in Ottawa. It was right in the middle of the Byward Market area, and you'd climb up to the second floor, enjoy pub food, and play a trivia game. Whenever I visited, there was always a group of regulars there that were very good at the trivia.

Because of some business changes, I haven't been to Ottawa in years, but should I ever return, I was looking forward to going to Double Decker's and playing.

Sadly, it appears this is not to be. The title of this TripAdvisor page says it all:

Double-Decker's Pub (Reported Closed)

Unbeknownst to me, it appears that the pub closed right about the time that I was writing about it. And this is one case in which the Irish defeated the British:

The newest edition to the Irish Village Pub Group - the Aulde Dubliner opened its doors in May of 2004 - transition of the building from old to new was a welcome sight to one of the Market's busiest corners.

And, according to the NTN Buzztime Site Finder, there is no longer any NTN Buzztime location in the Byward Market area. The two closest ones are the New Edinburgh Pub off of Vanier Parkway, and the Carleton Tavern (apparently a new site) to the southwest, both well outside of walking distance.

One more thing about Double Decker's - I may have liked it for the trivia, but others liked for the wings. Here are some selected comments from a May 2004 post about sushi:

Where is there a good wings place in Ottawa? Rosie O'Grady's was amazing in first year. They had wings for under 10c/wing at one point. I guess that was too cheap though, cuz they went out of business later on. Now i'm screwed, cuz i don't know of another place where you can get (non-breaded) wings for cheap. Where, tell me, where?

» Posted by: Scott at May 13, 2004 09:48 AM

Hmm....I don't know if the special is still on, but maybe, just maybe, the Duke of Somerset might have a special on Mondays. It's been a looong time, you could give them a call first. They also had the 10c/wing deal.

» Posted by: sometimes bored in ottawa at May 13, 2004 10:24 AM
Scott : Double-Decker's in the market used to have incredible wings (and cheap too!), but apparently they've closed down now. :(

(I'm also looking for a good wing-place...)

» Posted by: peter at May 13, 2004 01:03 PM

I guess the Irish don't serve wings. Makes sense, since the Englishmen beat them down for years...

Friday, May 9, 2008

NTN Buzztime, Inc. Announces First Quarter 2008 Results

I could have started this blog with a description of a game, or of a particular playing experience. However, this blog is starting the day after NTN Buzztime, Inc. announced its results for the first quarter of 2008, so I might as well start there. Here are excerpts from the press release that appeared on PR Newswire:

CARLSBAD, Calif., May 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (Amex: NTN), a multi-point social interactive entertainment company, today announced results for the first quarter, ended March 31, 2008, of its 2008 fiscal year.

When reading a press release announcing financial results, a good rule of thumb is to skip the second paragraph. This is the company's last opportunity to put a positive spin on the results. In this case, NTN Buzztime President/CEO Dario Santana used words such as "multifacted turnaround." The third quarter cited Frost & Sullivan results on anticipated growth in the industry.

Let's go to the fourth paragraph:

Revenue from continuing operations decreased by $0.5 million or 7% to $7.2 million for the first quarter of 2008 compared to revenues of $7.7 million for the first quarter of 2007. Net loss from continuing operations for the first quarter of 2008 was $2.3 million compared to a net loss of $0.8 million for the first quarter of 2007. Although the customer site count declined by only approximately 4.5% comparing the 2008 first quarter with the equivalent period of 2007, revenue decreased by a higher percentage due to the longer-term effect on recurring revenues of a net decline in sites over recent quarters.

Gross margin as a percentage of revenue remained the same at 71% in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the first quarter of 2007.

Selling, general and administrative expenses increased $1.5 million or 27%, to $7.2 million for the first quarter of 2008 from $5.7 million for the first quarter of 2007. The increase was due to several factors. Salaries and related expenses increased primarily due to an increase in headcount in content/programming, marketing, advertising and business development functions, including senior positions. Also contributing to increased SG&A totals was the abandonment of a software development project, increased bad debt expense related to subscriber cancellations, marketing expenses incurred to conduct audience research and measurement studies and increased severance payments related to a workforce reduction that took place during the first quarter of 2008.

So this is where NTN Buzztime stands at the moment.