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SusCom Buzzing over Buzztime

Interactive television just may work after all. Susquehanna Communications is boasting strong usage rates one month after its launch of Buzztime, the interactive trivia game from Buzztime Entertainment Inc.

SusCom reports that 6,000 of the 16,000 digital subscribers in its York, Pa., system registered and played Buzztime trivia games against fellow digital subscribers from June 10 through July 10. What's more, Buzztime generated average daily usage of 800 households, about 13 percent of the digital-user base, playing over 4,000 games. Each player spent an average of 35 minutes per day playing the game.

"Using conventional ratings measurements, these results would rank Buzztime among the most highly viewed cable channels on our system," said SusCom president and chief operating officer Jim Munchel.

The Buzztime gaming platform is available as part of SusCom's digital tier. Games include Tube Topics, Kids Only Trivia, Bach to Rock, Red Carpet Q&A, Diamondball Trivia and Countdown. A new game starts every 15 minutes on each of the six Buzztime "channels." The service has 175,000 questions in its database.

"The consumer usage data and results are significant and very encouraging," said Buzztime president and chief operating officer Tyrone Lam. Although some of the usage could be attributed to a new service's honeymoon period, Lam cautioned against thinking the numbers would drop dramatically.

He pointed out SusCom launched the service during the summer, a period when TV viewing drops. "And we haven't offered any prizes or any promotions for the service," Lam said. Those efforts will come over the next two months.

SusCom executives hope Buzztime will help cut digital churn, which already has been reduced after SusCom launched the Scientific-Atlanta Inc. gaming portal, featuring such games as backgammon, checkers and others. "We saw a measurable decrease in churn with classic games," said Dan Templin, SusCom vice president, marketing and programming. He hopes Buzztime can continue that trend, but added that data would not be available for another few months.

Digital sales are a different story. Templin said SusCom saw "a nice spike" in digital penetration in June, a month that usually kicks off a three-month lull of any digital growth. With Buzztime on digital, "it's compelling product that involves the consumer," Templin said.

Buzztime is paid a license fee for the service, just like any other digital programming, Lam said. The company also is working on premium and pay-per-play formats.