Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HAL got 15,000 points! Again!

The wonderful thing about trivia contests such as NTN Buzztime is that they are played by humans, and sometimes humans perform better, sometimes worse. If you're stressed out about something, you're probably not going to do that well in a trivia game. If you have been taking advantage of the libations offered at many NTN Buzztime locations, your trivia skills may disintegrate as the night wears on. ("Where did my Playmaker go? Oh, it's underneath my shot glass.")

But what if the person playing alongside you is not subject to stress or the effects of alcohol? What if the person is not a person?

IBM doesn't necessarly have visibility into NTN Buzztime yet, but they certainly know about Jeopardy, according to this Technology Review article:

IBM has announced that it is developing a computer to compete on the game show Jeopardy! If the system can outwit human contestants--by comprehending and responding to a variety of questions more rapidly--artificial intelligence will have made a significant advance, the computer's developers say.

As the article notes, IBM's previous gamesmanship involved the chess-playing Deep Blue computer. Chess is a game that can be represented in mathematical and probabilistic form. A trivia show like Jeopardy is a bit tougher:

Playing Jeopardy...requires a computer to deal with a variety of subject matters, from politics to pop culture, and to answer questions based on clues that involve analyzing subtle meanings, riddles, and puns. Jeopardy! might seem a lot simpler than chess, but for a machine it's a far harder challenge.

So the next time someone denigrates you for sitting around in a bar all night answering trivia questions, it is perfectly acceptable for you to respond, "Hey, it's not like we're doing something easy like chess!"

Oh, and according to the New York Times article that Technology Review referenced, the computer will NOT be named HAL, but Watson.

I just hope that Watson remembers to provide responses in the form of a question.

Friday, April 24, 2009

iSports? No, iBuzztime now.

This press release was issued this morning:

NTN Buzztime, Inc. to Accelerate Mobile and Web Platform by Acquiring iSports Assets

CARLSBAD, Calif., April 24 CA-NTN-Buzztime-Acq

- iSports asset purchase gives NTN Buzztime immediate mobile presence

- iSports co-founders Nick Glassman and Kartik Ramachandran to join NTN Buzztime management

CARLSBAD, Calif., April 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Amex: NTN) today announced that its Board of Directors has approved the asset purchase of iSports. iSports delivers cutting-edge mobile sports and entertainment content including near real-time sports scores and news, and unique interactive gameplay within its acclaimed and graphically rich user experience.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080331/CLM183LOGO)

NTN Buzztime is a market leader in interactive venue-based sports, trivia, and casual games. The iSports asset acquisition immediately extends NTN Buzztime's venue-based gaming experience and advertiser network to the rapidly growing base of gaming enthusiasts on mobile phones and significantly bolsters NTN Buzztime's mobile and web development capabilities. NTN Buzztime will also be strengthened by the addition of iSports founders, Nick Glassman and Kartik Ramachandran to its management team.

"The acquisition of iSports will greatly enhance the value of NTN Buzztime for venues, consumers, and advertisers. NTN Buzztime is already a market leader of interactive sports, trivia, and casual games in the out of home marketplace. With the acquisition of iSports, we now extend that leadership position to the mobile arena," commented CEO Terry Bateman. "Not only have our strategic development plans taken a quantum leap through this agreement, we also gain the valuable expertise of two mobile and internet entertainment pioneers, iSports co-founders Nick Glassman and Kartik Ramachandran. This agreement marks a great strategic milestone for NTN Buzztime, and we enthusiastically welcome Nick and Kartik aboard to help us create the new NTN Buzztime."

Under terms of the purchase agreement, iSports Founder and CEO Nick Glassman will join NTN Buzztime as Executive Vice President, Product & Technology, and Kartik Ramachandran, iSports Co-Founder, President, and COO, will become the Company's Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President, Business Development.

"We have watched the progress of NTN Buzztime with great interest, and we see the opportunity to participate in its expansion into the mobile and internet arenas as a great validation of the success we have achieved in launching iSports," commented Mr. Glassman. "The combination of NTN Buzztime's loyal fan base and out-of-home advertising initiative with the iSports groundswell has tremendous potential."

Mr. Ramachandran added, "Coupling iSports with NTN Buzztime provides both companies the opportunity to significantly accelerate our initiatives in the out-of-home and digital entertainment space. We are very proud of what we have accomplished on our own to date, and even more excited to exploit the enormous synergies inherent in the combined company."

About NTN Buzztime, Inc.

NTN Buzztime, Inc., a leader in interactive entertainment for 25 years, is based in Carlsbad, CA. Buzztime is distributed in-home and out-of-home across broadband platforms including online, cable TV, satellite TV and in approximately 3,750 restaurants, sports bars and pubs throughout North America. Buzztime entertainment is also available on electronic games and in books. For more information, please visit http://www.buzztime.com.

Buzztime is a proud member of the OVAB |Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau.

Buzztime is a registered trademark of Buzztime Entertainment, Inc. and Playmaker is a registered trademark of NTN Buzztime, Inc.

About iSports, Inc.

iSports is a pioneer and market leader in the category of Mobile Social Gaming, offering sports scores, gamecasting, and news alongside addictive interactive Challenge games, all of which are designed to expand sports fans' digital entertainment experiences beyond the boxscore and into the realm of real-time community and casual competition.

About Nick Glassman

Nick Glassman's 15-year career has focused on creating advanced user experiences out of emerging technology, with a focus on wireless. Prior to founding iSports, Mr. Glassman was Co-Founder, VP of Product Development of Transpera, the first comprehensive platform to deliver and monetize web videos on mobile phones. Previous to co-founding Transpera, he served as the Executive Producer of Qualcomm's MediaFLO USA, Inc., responsible for managing the design, integration, and launch of mobile video broadcasting services for FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN, MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon on Verizon and AT&T. He also managed consumer applications at PacketVideo, the first company to stream audio and video over wireless networks, and previously held senior positions at Excite, Inc., Moxi Digital, and Silicon Graphics. He began his career at Pixar Animation Studios, working on the groundbreaking 'Toy Story' feature release.

About Kartik Ramachandran

Prior to co-founding iSports, Kartik Ramachandran served as Head of Corporate Development at MediaFLO Technologies, the technology vendor and International platform development arm of Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile content broadcasting initiative. He co-founded iSports with over six years of strategic planning and transactional background in telecommunications, media and technology gained in prior positions with the management consulting and investment banking firms Bain & Company, Accenture, and Deutsche Bank Securities. He holds a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Forward-looking Statements

This release contains forward-looking statements which reflect management's current views of future events and operations. These statements are based on current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical results or those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include uncertainty regarding our future capital needs, risks associated with the current economic downturn, our significant losses, our ability to grow our out-of-home Buzztime iTV network and implement our other business strategies, our management transition, failure of product demand or market acceptance of both 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.

Kendra Berger
Chief Financial Officer
NTN Buzztime, Inc.
(760) 438-7400

Sean Collins
Senior Partner
CCG Investor Relations
(310) 477-9800, ext. 202

SOURCE NTN Buzztime, Inc.

Until today, NTN Buzztime's mobile presence was limited to an application that can be used to find NTN Buzztime locations and game schedules. While the current NTN Buzztime application works on my phone, the current iSports application does not. So I'm personally uncertain whether this change will directly affect me.

Then again, NTN Buzztime probably isn't going after the 8-bit rotary phone crowd. The Apple fanboys are probably a more lucrative market.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A, Anthony!

Having played NTN Buzztime trivia for several years now, I can claim some level of success at the games. While I don't play much, I'll occasionally place in the top rankings, only missing a question or two.

But I am not A. Anthony, who was playing at a Buffalo Wild Wings when this happened:

I played the trivia games like usual, but tonight something amazing happened. And by something amazing I mean that I scored in the top 20 nationally in Immortal Words. Who didn't miss a single question? This guy.

I have never played Immortal Words, and I'm not sure that I'd be all that good at it:

Admit it... you love to quote your favorite movie, TV show... even your favorite song. We're going to see if you really know where your favorite quotations came from.

Immortal Words will challenge your ability to identify who said what... was it a movie, TV, book, philosopher, author, poet, comedian? Nothing is off limits.

Unfortunately, it may be off-limits for me because of its scheduled time - Thursdays at 5:15 pm Pacific.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A place for all (except for two commenters)

So anyways, the Kitsap Sun talked about the owner of MoonDogs Too in Port Orchard, Darryl Baldwin.

Baldwin grew up on a farm in North Dakota until city lights called to him. He relocated to Los Angeles, where he was drawn into a manufacturing position for 25 years.

Baldwin did well, but decided there was much more than the Los Angeles scene and became disheartened with “putting money in other people’s pockets.”

He decided to start his own business, but he didn't want to do it in California - but that's probably a topic for my business blog. He found a historic location which had last hosted a tavern named the Moon Dog Bar and Grill, opened his own establishment (MoonDogs Too), and proceeded to implement his vision:

Baldwin chose to serve the entire community. He feels that some bars and taverns tend to have attitudes that “isolate much of the neighborhood” and he didn’t want to fall into that persona. Baldwin designed MoonDogs Too to be a place where everyone of every age could come for food and entertainment and all the while feel comfortable.

Although not mentioned in the main article, the sidebar states that NTN Buzztime trivia is one of the services that MoonDogs Too provides - and it's free! (Well, you presumably have to buy food and drink.)

In the comments area, however, sherm360 spoils this scene of wonderment:

its funny how this goes in the paper on sat april 11th but friday april 10th they had 8 cops and a ladder truck out front and got closed for the night after a girl got hit in the face with a crutch and another with a beer bottle......and were over capacity....wow

So I figured I'd check the NTN Buzztime reviews of the establishment. At the time I checked, there were three positive reviews and one negative one. One of the positive reviews was practically in heaven:

moondogs is the best bar in washington, i've been to many in seattle and gig harbor that don't even compare in the slightest.

But the negative one was practically in hell. Here's a small sample:

Doesn't draw a real pretty or dental plan user kinda crowd. I've seen oral on the staircase & tittie winks sitting @ the bar. Take condoms if your looking for some Friday nite action or your OWN silverware for the full dining experince.

YMMV. And remember that you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Empoprise-NTN High Noon - Damon's Grill (Wisconsin Dells, WI)

This Friday feature temporarily took some time off, but then I read about Matt's experience here and had to feature the site.


I have never been to the Wisconsin Dells myself. I took a trip across the country in 2005 with my family, but when my family visited the Wisconsin Dells, I had temporarily left them to go on a business trip to Texas. When I followed them a week later, I slept in Madison instead.

Back to the site. The Kalahari Resorts website has a page devoted to Damon's.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can Matt get his mom to play NTN Buzztime?

I'm glad that I've improved my searches, because I'm now turning up more and more stories of people who are playing NTN Buzztime - even if they don't mention the words "NTN Buzztime."

Take Matt, for example. On Friday, April 3, Matt wrote about his experiences at NTN Buzztime - something that he had wanted to do for a while. The post even has a picture of a Playmaker. His experience:

My friend Nick and I played for a couple hours and we each won at least one game. I was awesome at Sports and Entertainment but noticeably lacking in History, Science and Art - should have payed better attention in high school :)

And Matt made this statement, with which even Ken Jennings would probably agree:

Believe me - nothing's lamer than talking trash about Roman history but man, did I make it sound good!

But that's not the end of the story, because Matt's blog post received a comment - from his mom, bragging about Mom & Dad's capabilities at Trivial Pursuit.

It looks like Matt is trying to accomplish some goals. Perhaps he should add a goal to beat his Mom at an NTN Buzztime game.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Why Steve Jobs would ignore Buzztime screens in a restaurant

It's obvious that NTN Buzztime isn't the only trivia game around, and that it actually benefits from a general interest in trivia. So, in my view, increased popularity of trivia could only help NTN Buzztime in the long term.

But still, other trivia venues can be seen as competition. As Louis Gray notes, that competition might be on your own phone. Unless you have the 8 bit rotary variety of phone. But Gray obviously doesn't:

The new Jeopardy game for the iPhone, just released to the iTunes Store, lets you select two modes of gameplay - solo, where you answer every single question, and the more familiar multi-player mode, where you face off against two opponents who have wandered into the studio.

More here, including screen shots. And while NTN Buzztime is technically free (vs. $4.99 for the iPhone Jeopardy game), in the long run you probably save money since you're not paying the restaurant and bar bills that you would while playing NTN Buzztime.

Friday, April 10, 2009

NTN Buzztime - the choice of a new generation

You gotta wonder how NTN Buzztime gets new customers. Rochelle Weber has the answer:

I don’t get to see all of my grandkids as much as I’d like to, but I see them enough to share my interests with them....I love trivia so last summer I took them to Buffalo Wild Wings to play trivia and discovered that Alex (who is 12) is a card sharp. While I was playing trivia, he was winning Texas Hold ‘Em.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How many NTN Buzztime sites have YOU visited?

OK, I've been playing NTN Buzztime trivia on and off for several years, and have visited sites (mostly on business trips) from Orange County, California to Ottawa, Canada. I've never added up all of the sites that I've visited, but I'd say I've probably played at somewhere between 2 dozen and 3 dozen sites.

That is small change, based upon what I read from RoadDog:

We have now been to 797 different NTN sites, very likely the most of any 'hooked" folks.

To achieve such a total, you not only have to have the time to go out and play trivia, but you also have to be mobile so that you can cover a lot of territory.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NTN Buzztime has no lack of visibility

OK, so I wrote the previous post about NTN Buzztime's lack of visibility, and then I ran across this post, written before the formal launch of the Buffalo Wild Wings in Dublin, California on April 6, 2009.

The post includes "just some of the features that you can expect when visiting Dublin's B-Dubs." In addition to piping sports game audio in the restrooms, this tidbit is mentioned:

Buzztime interactive trivia and poker games that provide customers with a chance to compete against others in the Dublin B-Dubs and also nationwide.

And there's even a link to the games page on the Buzztime website.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NTN Buzztime's lack of visibility

Now there are certain things that are only known by a small subset of people. One of those is NTN Buzztime, a company that is fighting to get restaurants and bars to sign up for its product, and a company that is fighting for customers to play it.

As part of my preparation for this blog, I subscribe to various Google searches that help me find every mention of NTN Buzztime in a blog or news item. And let me tell you, there aren't all that many mentions of NTN Buzztime.

But recently I tried adding a few new searches, and they seem to be hitting the jackpot. For example, I found this post at Ryan Hochrad's blog:

Also while we were at Buffalo Wild Wings we played this really cool trivia game which connects to people all around the nation playing. It had a lot of different build in games but we played the trivia game which was being shown on the TV screen. Let me tell you that my team stunk and did not do to well on any of the sections, but hey, it was fun anyway.

Now Ryan is clearly enthused about NTN Buzztime. The only problem is, he doesn't know it. He knows it as "this really cool trivia game" that he plays at Buffalo Wild Wings. Now while that's great for Buffalo Wild Wings, it's not necessarily so great for NTN Buzztime, who is trying to get brand recognition.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More on plane trivia

Tyler is going to Japan for six months, and he had to fly from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to do it. The flight:

The flight from CVG to LAX was in a 3x3 plane, equipped with touch-screen LCDs in the back of every seat. With the appropriate hardware (headphones) one could either watch TV, purchase movies, listen to music, or play a number of video games. (Television channels included Discovery, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN and a few other channels, and there was a wide selection of music, including modern, jazz, popular, Most of us killed time by playing an interactive trivia game, which was similar to that in Damon’s and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants.

And you know what game they play in those restaurants.

Tyler didn't identify the airline on which he was flying, but I encountered a similar game on a Delta flight, and Delta appears to be the only airline with a non-stop flight from Cincinnati to Los Angeles (and you can continue to Japan on Delta).

Delta still doesn't include a lot of detail on its trivia game:

Up for some friendly competition with your fellow passengers? Check out Delta’s interactive Trivia game for free.

But after searching, I did find some Delta trivia information:

Designing Women's creators did not want to fire Delta in the first place, but was forced to by the network.

Whoops...wrong Delta. Getting back to the airline, I am wondering if MindFun.com is the source of Delta's trivia. Here's what MindFun says:

As MindFun began adding more original games (using a variety of advanced formats, including Java, Javascript, PHP, and DHTML), other companies like Miller Brewing Company, Delta Airlines, Gamegate.com, and others began to notice the great content and approached MindFun.com to syndicate the trivia and games. Now, if you fly Delta Airlines across the Atlantic or around the world, you can play MindFun.com produced questions translated into 5 different languages.

So MindFun appears to be a content producer, but I'm still not sure who designed the application.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dan was right about uWink

On February 2, I wrote a post that stated,

At least in the opinion of Dan, uWink is a fail.

Guess what? Dan was right:

Suffering from "serious liquidity issues," according to analysts, uWink has officially removed itself from the stock market after its share price hovered around zero for months.

But hope remains:

[uWink] is beginning to sell its technology to other restaurants. Its table-top touch screens, which feature video games, interactive media and automated menus for ordering food, can lower a restaurant's labor costs by eliminating wait staff....

You'll recall that the uWink games are mostly single player, but there are some multi-player games available.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Follow-up on the Empoprise-NTN April Fool's post

Yes, it was a joke. NTN Buzztime has NOT signed an agreement with Denny's to put its trivia game in all Denny's restaurants.

Which begs the question - why DOES NTN Buzztime market to bars, rather than more family-oriented establishments?

One reason is that bars provide a cool demographic:

NTN Buzztime, Inc. (Amex: NTN), an out-of-home entertainment company, announced 65.9 percent of the Buzztime audience is the highly desirable 21-49 year old demographic according to a recent study conducted by The Nielsen Company....

Nielsen also documented that Buzztime players are 66 percent male and 34 percent female with an average annual income of $69,855. The audience had a dwell time of nearly one hour per visit (59.3 minutes) and 59 percent of the respondents visited the same location three or more times during the previous four weeks.

The dwell time is probably the key factor here. Owners of a place such as a Denny's don't necessarily market to people who want to stay and stay and stay, but a bar will happily serve more drinks to patrons.

Another reason for NTN Buzztime's presence in bars is because pub games have a long history. A very long history.

From Roman taverns which offered games such as Draughts (a common pub sign) to the modern pubs of the 21st century with electronic quiz machines, games have long been associated with drinking establishments. Richard Boston in Beer and Skittles reveals that the first regulation for national control of pubs was about pub games. Henry VII's statute of 1495 restricted "the indoor games which were distracting Tudor pubmen from archery". Gaming activities associated with pubs ranged from card games such as cribbage and throwing games such as darts, through physical sports such as cricket to blood sports such as cock fighting. Balls Pond Road in Islington was named after an establishment run by Mr Ball that had a pond out the back filled with ducks, where drinkers could, for a certain fee, go out and take their chance at shooting the creatures.

Just think of the outcry from PETA if NTN Buzztime were to re-create the duck pond game. Of course, if they had that game at Denny's, you could choose your own meal - and you'd HAVE to "dwell" for a bit while your meal was being prepared...

NTN Buzztime signs agreement with Denny's

I knew this blogging would pay off some day. Not only have I received recognition, but I also (sort of) received a scoop.

And I was surprised when this recognition/scoop occurred because of this blog - in some ways my least popular blog, but also a blog that specifically targets its vertical market, and is significant in ways that I have never imagined.

It all started with an email that I received from NTN Buzztime. And not just from a marketer, but from Terry Bateman himself.

Dear John,

First, I want to thank you for the work that you've put into your Empoprises-NTN (sic) blog. Not only have we determined that you are one of the top 250 bloggers that blogs on NTN Buzztime issues, but we couldn't help but note that your evangelism of NTN Buzztime has turned up in the Oracle OpenWorld blog
http://blogs.oracle.com/oracleopenworld/2008/08/around_the_world_2.html which will help extend our brand to database managers and other business experts throughout the United States and Canada.

In recognition of your efforts, you have been credited with 1,000 Players Plus points to your OEMPER account at Tequila Hoppers in Upland, California.

In addition, we are providing you this press release in advance, but are requesting that you embargo its publication until April 1, 2009. We believe that this press release indicates a significant expansion of NTN Buzztime's reach.

Thank you again for your support, John.

Terry Bateman
Chief Executive Officer
NTN Buzztime, Inc.

Before I share the press release with you, let me point out that in the past, NTN Buzztime's game network (as opposed to its other businesses) has specifically targeted bars. Perhaps this is because bars are trivia hangouts, or perhaps it's for other reasons, but you haven't seen NTN Buzztime trivia in, say, a McDonalds.

I should also note that one of the selling points that NTN Buzztime uses is to tell bar owners that presence of NTN Buzztime will not only attract people to their establishments, but will also encourage them to stay longer and to spend more money.

It never occurred to me that this basic selling point could be extended beyond the bar, but perhaps that's why I don't work for NTN Buzztime. Someone thought of this, and in my view it's brilliant.

But let me share the press release:

NTN Buzztime, Inc. Reaches Agreement with Denny's, Creates New Games for New Market

CARLSBAD, Calif., April 1 — NTN Buzztime, Inc. (NYSE Alternext US: NTN) today announced that it has completed an agreement with Denny's to place NTN Buzztime trivia games in all Denny's restaurants.

"This deal greatly expands the reach of NTN Buzztime games," stated Terry Bateman, NTN Buzztime Board member and CEO. "Not only will be expanding our network to 1,500 new locations, for a total of over 5,200 locations, but we will also be expanding the hours in which NTN Buzztime trivia games are available. NTN Buzztime trivia games will now be available during the morning, to address the Denny's breakfast market."

"We are excited to provide NTN Buzztime trivia games to our customers," stated Nelson J. Marchioli, CEO of Denny's. "The new Grand Slam game that will be offered during breakfast hours is estimated to increase our coffee sales substantially, and also gives us an opportunity to introduce new products, including our new Buzztime Breakfast Pastry."

The Grand Slam game, available during breakfast hours, will consist of 15 multiple choice trivia questions administered during a half-hour game. Trivia questions will focus upon a variety of topics, including over-the-air network television, popular music from the 1950s, and literature. The game will be available during morning hours and also during Sunday afternoons in the spring and summer months.

About NTN Buzztime, Inc.

NTN Buzztime, Inc., a leader in interactive entertainment for 25 years, is based in Carlsbad, CA. Buzztime is distributed in-home and out-of-home across broadband platforms including online, cable TV, satellite TV and in approximately 3,746 restaurants, sports bars and pubs throughout North America. Buzztime entertainment is also available on electronic games and in books. For more information, please visit http://www.buzztime.com.

Buzztime is a proud member of the OVAB |Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau.

Buzztime is a registered trademark of Buzztime Entertainment, Inc. and Playmaker is a registered trademark of NTN Buzztime, Inc.

So, Terry, thanks for the scoop. What a way to start the month of April, getting a scoop like this on the first day of the month.