News Corp, VeriSign to form global mobile entertainment firm

MUMBAI: US media conglomerate News Corp and VeriSign have announced a joint venture to form what they claim is world’s largest provider of mobile entertainment.

News Corp will pay $188 million for a controlling interest in VeriSign’s wholly-owned Jamba subsidiary and will combine it with Fox Mobile Entertainment assets. VeriSign operates intelligent infrastructure services that enable and protect interactions across voice and data networks anytime, from anywhere on multiple devices.

The new company will merge a technologically advanced platform with mobile content production and delivery capabilities and will serve 30 territories with a potential reach of more than a billion mobile subscribers. The new company intends to retain the Jamster brand in the US and the Jamba brand worldwide.

Former Fox Mobile Entertainment president Lucy Hood will become CEO of the joint venture. With key centers in Los Angeles and Berlin, the new entity will be the industry’s only vertically integrated mobile entertainment company with unique capabilities to produce, market, sell and distribute mobile content.

News corp president and COO Peter Chernin says, "This is an important step in News Corp.’s strategy of becoming the world’s leading digital media company. We are the most powerful media company on the web with Fox Interactive Media, our aggressive digital content deals have given consumers access to News Corp programming on every conceivable platform and we have already demonstrated innovation in this emerging space with the Mobisode and Mobizzo.

"Wireless technology gives us an enormous opportunity to reach billions of mobile phone users with our content. With this new venture we’re looking forward to inventing new and compelling ways to engage this exciting new audience.”

VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos says, “We are excited to combine our unique mobile entertainment expertise and direct to consumer assets with one of the most forward-thinking media companies in the world. We look forward to working with News Corp. to create compelling, interactive services that make an impact on the next generation of wireless users”.

Jamba was founded in 2000 and is considered a global leader in off-deck delivery of mobile entertainment. The company currently delivers content in 30 territories and has one of the industry’s most advanced technology platforms. Jamba can immediately distribute content in all of its territories, which is critically important in an industry where most of the users are young people always looking for the 'next cool thing.' With its cutting-edge analytic tools, Jamba has the real-time ability to track and optimise marketing, quickly reacting to consumer needs and interests in order to be able to monetize products and services.

News Corp’s Fox Mobile Entertainment group got its start with American Idol text voting, which generated nearly 65 million text messages this past season, up from 12,000 messages in the first season in 2001. In a long list of firsts, the company also invented the Mobisodes Series category, which led with the 24: Conspiracy series, the first made-for-mobile program to be Emmy-nominated, and launched the first ad-sponsored video series Prison Break: Proof of Innocence.

The company also launched the first media-backed cross-carrier mobile entertainment service for consumers, Mobizzo.

The new Jamba will offer an aggregation of content from music and media companies, as well as original content created exclusively for mobile. Jamba partners include: Universal Music Group and Warner Music, among others. In addition, Jamba and Fox Mobile Studios have units that create original content ranging from the highly successful Crazy Frog, to multiple animated characters, to genres such as Manga, Activism, and X-Sports. The unit is expected to draw from not only top Fox divisions but also News Corp companies around the world.

The new company will immediately become the largest customer for VeriSign’s Digital Content Services (DCS) group, which specialises in providing intelligent infrastructure and connectivity solutions to enable the delivery of rich content over mobile and broadband networks. Mobile operators, portals, media companies and consumer brands around the world leverage the DSC platform to power their interactive entertainment experiences. Fox’s Mobizzo unit and Jamba are existing customers of DCS.

Under the agreement, Jamba will soon release its first products and offerings as a new entity, following the close of the transaction, including:

MySpace Mobile Store: In an alliance with social networking site MySpace with more than 74 million users worldwide, Jamba will be MySpace's global m-commerce partner. Jamba will build a unique m-commerce engine to enable MySpace users to download ringtones, graphics and animations from top music and media companies.

The Simpsons Mobile: Coming soon, Jamba will exclusively offer mobile content from the series The Simpsons through the industry’s first subscription package tied to exclusive content called the Yellow Plan. Available to consumers for the first time, the “Yellow Plan” will include an array of uniquely designed Simpsons mobile content, such as wallpapers, screensavers, ringtones and video.

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