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Is there life after News Corp.? (NSDQ: NWS) Bitbop, part of the Fox Mobile division that was recently sold to the Jesta Group, believes there will be: the premium video aggregator today announced a new version of its service optimized for LTE networks, which it will launch as a preloaded app on handsets sold by Verizon for its 4G network.
Since launching last year, Bitbop has developed apps for Android and BlackBerry devices; but Joe Bilman, executive vice president of global products and chief architect of Bitbop, tells us that this new version takes advantage of the LTE network by delivering a higher quality bitrate service; and when a user chooses to download rather than stream the content, the downloads will obviously be faster.
The deal with Verizon involves more than just being preloaded as an app — although that is certainly one way to grab users’ attention for its service. It will also mean that users will have the option of paying for their subscriptions through their Verizon bills. Bitbop is not specifying what the revenue share is with Verizon for this.
Prices for the service will remain the same, at $9.99 per month for unlimited downloads and streams from some 25 content partners, including most of the major networks.
The LTE enhancement is one of a series of developments underway. Bitbop has also created an app for Windows Phone 7 devices, which is being shown at CES this week but probably won’t be formally announced until next week, says Bilman. He adds that it is still working on its iOS app.
And the company is still planning a launch in Germany in the first half of this year. Bilman says that the German service, too, will be with tied in with a carrier, although it has yet to announce which one.
Bitbop’s deal with Verizon comes at a time when we are seeing increased activity among digital video providers to make their services more ubiquitous on mobile devices — possibly as a way to make sure they do not go the way of some of the more high profile failures, such as Qualcomm’s Flo TV.
One major competitor, Hulu, yesterday announced that it was coming to Android. (“But it’s not there yet!” notes Bilman) And MobiTV has released an iPad app.
Aligning with a carrier could be a crucial way of differentiating itself from the other providers, even if Verizon is doing deals with a number of providers that will fight Bitbop for users’ attention. Bilman: “Obviously, 60 or 100 apps seems like lot but at least that’s easier to navigate than tens or hundres of thousands of apps.”