KIRKLAND, Wash. & ST. LOUIS – Betting on increased demand from cable customers for basic interactive games, Digeo, Inc, and Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) recently expanded their offering with the launch of two new games, “Blackjack” and “Mah Jong.” The new games expand the current suite offered on i-Games, a dedicated games channel on the Digeo™ iTV service, currently available to more than 690,000 Charter Digital Cable® customers across the country under the brand name Charter i-Channels. In the short time since launching the Games i-Channel, usage has been strong with over 50,000 unique users playing games each week for an average session time of three hours.
“Blackjack” is an interactive television translation of the ubiquitous card game in which users are dealt cards in an attempt to acquire a combination count higher than the dealer's, up to but not exceeding 21. The Digeo version of the casino favorite features an initial opening balance of $5,000, along with betting chips to the value of $10, $50, $100 and $500, and commands for deal, stand, hit, split, and double. Each week Digeo compiles data on the running balances of “Blackjack” players and posts the best regional and national results.
“Mah Jong” is an addictive strategy game during which players try to remove pairs of tiles while racing against the clock. The goal is to remove all 144 tiles on the game board by matching them up (by number, letter and/or design) and clearing them. For each pair of tiles removed, the player is awarded points. Additionally, the faster the board is cleared, the more bonus points a player receives.
"We're pleased with the traction that we've seen to date with the Games i-Channel,” said Steve Silva, Charter's executive vice president and chief technology officer. “When you've got a base of customers spending hours each week playing these games, you can understand how even basic entertainment applications can build a loyal customer following. It's ‘sticky' applications like games that have strong growth potential.”
Since its launch in November, the i-Games Channel has quickly become the most popular i-Channel on Digeo's iTV service generating an average of three million page views per week. During the first quarter of 2003, 31% of Charter i-Channel households were active users of i-Games. On a weekly basis, users averaged 15 game sessions.
"We're excited about the rapid uptake and reach of i-Games," said Digeo chief executive Jim Billmaier. "By continuing to expand and enhance the offering with the addition of well-known favorites like Blackjack, we're achieving our goal of boosting the value of digital cable for both operators and consumers.”
Earlier this quarter, Digeo also launched its first limited run event-based game called “The Sporting News Tournament Challenge,” created in conjunction with The Sporting News. This “pick 'em” style game, based on players predicting the outcome of the Division I NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, awarded a prize for the most accurate prediction of the tournament's results. Now that Digeo has built an engine for event-based games, the company plans to experiment with other additional limited run games related to other major sporting events moving forward.
The new titles were the first interactive games to be developed entirely in-house by Digeo. The company aims to have several more games deployed on the Digeo iTV service by the end of the year and plans to eventually add premium games and multi-player capabilities.
About i-Games and Digeo iTV
i-Games is part of the Charter i-Channel service which was introduced just over a year ago and has quickly grown into the nation's most widely deployed interactive cable television offering. Boasting a total of eight channels, including News, Weather, Sports, Entertainment, Shopping, Money and most recently Games, these channels provide consumers with instant access to local and national content as well as on-demand entertainment.
For Charter customers, i-Games can be reached via the Charter welcome screen at channel 001 or via direct tuning on channel 960. All games have been designed for simple play using viewer's remote controls. In addition to “Blackjack” and “Mah Jong”, the i-Games Channel includes the puzzle game “Picnic Antics” and the card game “Deal With It.”
Currently the i-Channel service, which is available in 18 Charter markets, garners more than four million weekly screen views, with over 63 percent of viewers using the service each quarter. The markets where it is currently available are: Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, W.Va.; Chicopee, Mass.; Fort Worth, Texas; Glendale, Calif.; Johnstown, Pa.; Kingsport, Tenn.; Long Beach, Calif.; Miami Beach, Fla.; Monterey Park, Calif.; Morristown Tenn.; University and Highland Park, Texas; Riverside, Calif.; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Turlock, Calif.; Victorville, Calif.; Whittier, Calif.; and Worcester, Mass.
About Digeo, Inc.
Digeo's media center products and services transform cable TV into the ultimate home entertainment experience.
Digeo's Moxi™ service puts digital cable at the heart of home entertainment by providing consumers with easy access to popular features such as digital video recording and high-definition TV, as well as music jukebox, photos, and games-all available from multiple rooms in the house using a fun and easy on-screen menu.
Digeo also delivers the most widely deployed cable iTV service in North America. The Digeo™ iTV service, now available to over 690,000 Charter subscribers nationwide, offers on-demand weather updates, sports statistics, news stories, games and more.
Digeo is backed by Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc., as well as Mayfield Partners, Cisco Systems and AOL Time Warner. The company has offices in Kirkland, Wash., Palo Alto, Calif. and Longmont, Colo. For more information, please visit www.digeo.com.
About Charter Communications
Charter Communications, A Wired World Company™, is the nation's third-largest broadband communications company. Charter provides a full range of advanced broadband services to the home, including cable television on an advanced digital video programming platform via the Charter Digital Cable® brand and high-speed Internet access marketed under the Charter Pipeline® brand. Commercial high-speed data, video and Internet solutions are provided under the Charter Business Networks® brand. Advertising sales and production services are sold under the Charter Media® brand. More information about Charter can be found at www.charter.com.
Gina Aumiller Bender, 650- 838-6014, firstname.lastname@example.org
Deb Seidel, 314-543-5703, DSeidel@chartercom.com
Digeo and Moxi are trademarks of Digeo, Inc. All other product or service names are the property of their respective owners.