Rover fetches higher ratings for Foxtel

Foxtel is offering its tech-savvy audience personalised information through an SMS and e-mail marketing tool, in an effort to drive ratings and subscriptions to its youth music television network, channel [V].

The service, called , allows viewers to receive a message alerting them to when their favourite artists will appear on the channel. These alerts usually occur on the day, typically one hour before the program is aired. The service is permission-based and viewers can subscribe online or via SMS.

"We wanted to better communicate with our audience, and SMS is the hottest item among the youth market across the country," said Barry Chapman, channel [V]'s managing director. "The response to has been phenomenal."

The company recently sent 3000 text messages one hour before the screening of a program special on youth band Incubus, screening it on its request show, By Demand. "Mr People Meter picked it up," said Chapman in reference to the positive AC Nielsen ratings figures. "It was the biggest By Demand rating of the year, which must be partly attributed to ."

The service is an expensive one for Foxtel, by the sheer nature of sending thousands of SMSs to 's 35,000-plus users. Chapman admitted Foxtel has struck a deal with a telecommunications carrier on the cost of the mobile messaging but declined to say how much it was paying, revealing only that it is "not much below the usual price of 20 cents".

However, Chapman believes that it's money well spent, claiming that "a dollar spent on SMS is better than a full-page ad in the music press".

"We spent $250,000 on broadcasting the Big Day Out -- that wasn't a programming exercise, it was a marketing exercise, and so is . Time will tell if it is a valuable one."

Designed by software developer company dload, was launched in July and has more than 36,000 registered users and is attracting 1000 new users everyday.

The service will be ramped up in September to include a gig guide, channel [V] program information, and music news. From September onwards registration will be through the channel [V] Web site only. The move is designed to give the music channel more information about its viewers and will enable personalised messaging, allowing it to target advertising to specific demographics such as age and post code.

The initial success of Rover has spurred Foxtel into looking at deploying the tool on other channel [V] stations worldwide, as well as other channels in its cable television network.

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