New business model leverages smartphones and TVs. Can amusement operators sell it?
BRISTOL, PA -- Tap TV, a five-year-old acquisition for AMI Entertainment
, is about to take the amusement industry in a brand new direction. The original intent for the TV and Internet hybrid was to deliver custom programming and ads, while existing alongside AMI's digital jukeboxes and touchscreen videogames. The narrowcast TV system enjoyed some success, particularly as a "lite" version that simplified installation and service for operators.
Now AMI is offering the new Tap TV Trivia Channel and Tap Lite System to compete with bar patrons' obsession with smartphones. AMI, whose primary business is jukebox and digital music administration, is banking that operators can sell the away-from-home entertainment concept, which pairs TVs and smartphones to create a social gaming system, into their coin-op locations.
Tap TV Trivia, which AMI says is a "complete reinvention" of its TV product, is a live nationwide video gaming network. "It's live, connected and inherently social, providing fast-paced entertainment that's perfect for connecting with today's tech-savvy patrons," explained AMI chief creative officer A.J. Russo.
For operators, Tap TV Trivia presents a new content strategy and business model that's off the beaten path: it's free to play. Its multiple-choice trivia questions are displayed on TVs inside a venue, and players use their own smartphones and a free Tap TV app to choose answers. The game features 12 categories that challenge players' knowledge of the 1980s, movies, music, sports, celebrities and videogames, among other areas. Before joining the fun, a player needs to download the free Tap TV app and set up a personal player account. Games start on the network every 20 minutes.
While other amusement products try to compete with smartphones, Russo noted, Tap TV turns the phone into an asset for operators. Tap TV Lite connects to a venue's existing TVs or video switching system, eliminating the need for costly installations and difficult setups. Because Tap TV Trivia uses guests' smartphones, there are no expensive controllers for operators to buy or locations to display. The Tap Lite system itself is described as affordable, lightweight and able to fit just about anywhere. All that's required is a broadband Internet connection. Bar and restaurant owners pay the operator a monthly fee, enabling Tap TV Trivia to be offered as a free-to-play service to patrons. AMI did not formalize a set rate, but said there is a suggested price in its Tap TV Master Operator Agreement. "Ultimately it's up to the operator to make arrangements with the venue owner," Russo said. "A lot of operators are simply planning to subtract the fee from the coin-op equipment already installed inside the same venue. I think that's a great idea."
During trials in Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, DC, AMI polled some 300 Tap Trivia participants. The company reports that of those players it had interviewed, 83% said Tap TV made their visits more fun, 74% said they were influenced to hang out longer, and 53% claimed they ordered extra food and drinks as a result of their extended stays. Additionally, 94% said were instantly able to understand how Tap Trivia worked and 85% said they planned to recommend it to a venue.
As part of the Tap TV Trivia rollout, AMI is going live with two new websites to support the service. TapTVTonight.com and Tap.tv are information hubs for consumers, operators and location owners to get key information on AMI Entertainment's TV product.
For owners and operators, Tap.tv provides information on how to leverage Tap Trivia to gain customer interest. It also features a comprehensive product overview (including installation guide) and news, as well as brochures and other promotional materials.
TapTVTonight.com is the official player portal for Tap Trivia. The site gives players an introduction to the product, with an overview of each of Tap TV's 12 trivia games, a live schedule and the latest product news.
According to AMI president and chief executive Mike Maas, the original Tap TV product was introduced about two years too early, but the market is now ready for an on-premise smartphone entertainment system provided by operators. "Tap TV Trivia is very new for operators," Maas cautioned. "It's a fundamental shift for them."
However, Maas believes that jukebox and amusement operators possess the marketing capacity and relationships to introduce the novel product. Tap TV products are also being sold through traditional distribution. "Operators have been in the sales business since there were operators," he said. "They're smart, talented people."
TV is becoming a big part of AMI's development focus, and it is investing big in this emerging category for operators. The company is planning several "exciting and innovating" enhancements that will be unveiled at next year's Amusement Expo in March. Traditional coin-op videogames, however, are no longer a part of AMI Entertainment. Its Megatouch video and Prize Farm SWP lines were rolled into a new and separate entity called Megatouch LLC. "Music and TV" is the new mantra at AMI.
The music company continues to market Tap Pro, the original Tap TV system designed for audiovisual groups that specialize in high-tech installations. This version, not for operators, is undergoing its own transformation this year. Tap TV Trivia will likely be available as a channel on Tap Pro, joining the four original sports and news channels, and perhaps other new programs.
What's The Cost?
Tap Lite is $499, available exclusively from AMI distributors. Inside the box there's a location-friendly marketing brochure (great tool for a pitch), a pack of table tents and a quick install guide, along with the Tap-Lite device. Once it's registered, the device can be assigned to an operator's shop address as a free demo unit or to the intended installation location. Once assigned to a venue, AMI charges the operator a small monthly usage fee. The charge is prorated. "I think it's the cleanest packaging we've ever assembled and it presents nicely to a venue owner," said AMI's AJ Russo. Registration and installation are super simple, and so is uninstalling and moving units."
INSTALLATION: Tap TV Lite installs two ways. Operators can connect a single screen to the Tap TV Lite system using the supplied HDMI cable or connect multiple TVs using an HDMI splitter or video-switching system. Both installations require broadband Internet access.