News Corp (NYSE: NWS) is overhauling its mobile operations after paying VeriSign (NSDQ: VRSN) $200 million for its remaining 49 percent state in Jamba, the mobile content company. This marks the end to the company’s whirlwind history, which succeeded with the rise of ringtones, only to struggle as it faced controversies over billing practices and waning ringtone sales. Going forward, the company known as Jamba will be gone, but the brand will continue under the newly formed Fox Mobile Group, which will be led by Jamba’s CEO Mauro Montanaro. Under the new leadership and business structure, the group will enter its next phase, which includes significant investments by launching a new mobile brand in the U.S. and by opening up a new studio to create made-for-mobile content. To understand what’s going on, we talked to Fox Mobile Group’s new CEO Mauro Montanaro, Jamba’s former CEO. Here’s a breakdown of the news and highlights from the interview:
– The new structure: Fox Mobile Group will comprise of three units: Fox Mobile Distribution, which includes Jamba, Jamster and other consumer brands; Fox Mobile Entertainment, which handles licensing content to third parties for mobile; and the Fox Mobile Studios, which will house the new creative and technology talents and assets that develop original mobile content.
More after the jump…
– New personnel and offices: The Fox Mobile Group has 720 employees in Berlin, Los Angeles, Brazil, and the new Singapore office, where the Fox Mobile Distribution and Fox Mobile Studios for Asian markets will be headquartered. Montanaro who joined Jamba in February has also appointed several new executives, including Kaj Hagros, who has been COO since July; Giovanni Montesanti, who will join the company as CMO in November; Dana Harris, vp of global communications and John Ma, vp of human resources. Mark Anderson and Jamie Samson will continue serving as CFO and EVP of business & legal affairs and general counsel, respectively.
– The new U.S. brand: In Q1, the Fox Mobile Group will launch a new U.S. brand, which will offer different pricing models and content created for mobile phones. Montanaro said it one focus will be on cross-platform content and simple pricing plans. “We want to provide the best possible mobile content and the maximum possible enjoyment.” He said that will include some quasi-game/TV series with participation coming from various Fox units. The brand will be unveiled in a couple of weeks and launch by early March.
– Why launching in the US?: Montanaro said although America is typically seen as behind in both mobile adoption and 3G networks, he said: “The U.S. has the highest potential for innovation in mobile….The U.S. consumers are jumping directly into mobile data, which is important for accessing mobile content. They are ready to consume data, including content on the phone.” Another factor is that a lot of the media and content creativity comes out of the U.S. “Most of the wealth in creativity, in terms of Hollywood, is here…We’ll be launching the same brand in other markets, but will start in the U.S. and possibly Canada.”
– The second wave of mobile: Montanaro said the new brand signifies the company’s move from 1.0 to 2.0 in mobile. “There are two main differences today, which have hampered growth of the 1.0. Whatever is offered on 2.0 needs to be transparent and seamless and consumers need to understand what they are buying from the mobile content provider without any tricks.” He said they must also offer different content for mobile phones. The focus will be on more games, multi-player apps and different business models, like rental and try-before-you-buy. Not mobile TV, “which is not flying because consumers don