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We’ve picked up some more detail on News Corp.‘s sale of Fox Mobile Group to Jesta from a source close to the company. The mobile video service Bitbop will remain a going concern, along with all the rest of the division’s assets. Fox Mobile —
rebranding to which becomes part of Jesta Mobile Holdings — will also retain all management staff, and, as yet, does not plan any further redudancies in addition to the 15 percent in Germany worldwide that we reported exclusively in November.
The news about Bitbop comes amid some reports that its future was in doubt. Not the case: “Bitbop is our future,” said the source.
But it is hard to tell how well Bitbop has fared in the market since launching in beta in May: the company has not released any user numbers. In the U.S., it can be accessed via Android and BlackBerry devices. An iPhone app in the U.S. is not forthcoming, but it’s not for lack of interest in the platform: when Bitbop comes to Germany in 2011, it will include an iPhone/iPad app.
Other investments, says the source, will also stay intact: Jamba/Jamster will likely continue to push into markets where the ringtone business has not already peaked — i.e., developing markets — and services like the dating site iLove and quiz site Mobizzo, which work in partnerships with carriers via mobile web sites, may well look to extend their services to apps to serve the growing smartphone user base.
Jesta, says the source, wants to be a very hands-on owner, with U.S.A. president Jason Aintabi taking the lead.
Jesta does have some technology investments, but the fact is that it has no real prior experience in mobile, particularly the kind of media-focussed, consumer mobile services that form the portfolio they have just bought. It’s a private business that has done a lot of deals in real estate and hospitality. This shouldn’t be seen necessarily as a negative. Empires have been built on more random beginnings before. (Just think: Nokia (NYSE: NOK) started as a tire company. And now look at it!)
Fox Mobile is planning a rebrand under its new owner. More details will likely come out around CES in January.