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AT&T Wireless scores with Fox's 'American Idol'

MUMBAI: Interactivity and Reality TV make one happy couple! AT&T Wireless' sponsorship of Rupert Murdoch's Fox's reality show American Idol has yielded rich dividends.

Over 2.5 million related text messages were sent overall by AT&T Wireless customers -- including polls, sweepstake entries, trivia, and votes. AT&T Wireless' foray into what it terms "TextTV" has advanced the awareness, use and adoption of mobile messaging services. American Idol is a spin-off of the successful British show, Pop Idol. Thousands of contestants across the US compete for a major recording contract.

President of AT&T Wireless Mobile Multimedia Services Andre Dahan said: "American Idol has brought text messaging to mainstream America. Roughly a third of all customers who participated in American Idol through text messaging had never even sent a text message before. Our venture with Fox has done more to educate the public and get people texting than any marketing activity in this country to date. By moving beyond product placement and generating active participation in the show's outcome, we have re-written the script for how reality television show sponsorships can be executed."

AT&T Wireless says its sponsorship is the biggest success story in US text messaging history. While text voting has been tied to other television shows in Europe and recently the US, it has never generated the volume of messaging seen since American Idol's premiere on 28 January. In fact AT&T Wireless reports that, at one point during the show, it processed nearly one thousand text votes per second.

Dahan further elaborated on the importance of the initiative saying: "The real significance of exceeding one million text votes lies in what this viewer response represents. Hundreds of thousands of customers are now texting with American Idol; more than likely, these customers will remain active text messaging users in the future. Even setting aside the unprecedented on-air exposure we've received, the value this represents over the lifetime of the customer is tremendous and more than pays for our investment in this sponsorship.

Senior VP content fox News Corporation Lucy Hood said, "With American Idol we've set a new precedent for ways our partners can use wireless services to further engage an audience. This also gives Fox a platform to extend the viewing experience from the TV screen onto the phone screens of millions of wireless customers."

AT&T Wireless is extending its relationship with the show. Since Idol fans can never seem to get enough, AT&T Wireless has introduced a new multimedia message service (MMS) alert specifically for them. Customers, with compatible phones, can sign up to receive an MMS alert every week, complete with the photo of the Idol most recently voted off the show and details about the following week's episode. In addition, customers with compatible phones can receive some American Idoltrivia by typing the word "IDOL" and sending it to 4502.

AT&T Wireless is the second-largest wireless carrier, based on revenues, in the US, with 20.859 million subscribers, and full-year 2002 revenues exceeding $15.6 billion.

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