Fox Sports dials up cell phone game

'America' participation has surged since launching

BUENOS AIRES– Fox Sports has launched the first pan-regional cellphone-based gamer in Latin America and plans to roll out more mobile content and services to tap a growing base of users of cellphones.

Participation in “A jugar America” (To Play America), in which viewers from eight countries compete for prizes via their handsets, has surged since launching last month.

“We’ve been surprised by how much traffic there has been,” says Sergio Veiga, vice president of sales for Fox Sports Latin America. “There’s been more traffic than on all the (cellphone gamers) on broadcast TV.”

The program airs simultaneously in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, and there are plans to expand.

People phone or text answers to questions during the hourlong program, which airs Monday-Friday at 5 p.m. Alejandra Martinez, who made her start in TV with “Big Brother” in Buenos Aires, hosts.

“People want to play because they know the answers and they see prize money going out,” says Alejandro Sas, general director of By-Cycle, a Buenos Aires developer of mobile content, including for Fox Sports.

There are nearly a dozen cellphone-based gamers in Latin America, but each is confined to a country.

“To Play” is the first regional one — and the latest example of how media companies are turning to the cellphone to squeeze out more revenue from content and to tap growing interest in the handset. They split revenue from each call or text-message with carriers.

With more than 185 million cellphones, Latin America is expected to surpass the U.S. in numbers.

“Our strategy is to develop entertainment for our viewers on all platforms,” says Veiga.

Its next step is to roll out games, news, ringtones and wallpapers, as well as to zap soccer match updates to fans.

Demand could surge with the June 9-July 9 World Cup in Germany, where Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Mexico have qualified.

Others are following suit. U.S. chipmaker Intel has entered an agreement to provide technical expertise and design devices for the marketing of the digital entertainment — games, music, photos and TV shows — of Grupo Clarin, Argentina’s biggest media conglom, via the Internet, cellphones or iTunes.

Car feevee El Garage has rolled out mobile entertainment in the region, and Telemedia Latin America, a unit of Budapest-based Telemedia Group, is expanding cellphone-based gamer “Llama y gana” (Call and Win) in Latin America.

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