Crazy Frog hits ringtones
By Paul Durman
The £250m ringtone business had
doubled in size since 2004, but last year’s row about the Crazy Frog and similar
promotions has brought growth to a standstill. Ringtone sales for the final
quarter of last year are expected to show a decline of 10% or more.
The heavily advertised Crazy Frog, a famously irritating jingle sold by Jamba,
was the most high-profile example of a ringtone subscription service. Many
consumers thought they had made a one-off purchase, and became angry when they
realised they were being billed again and again.
After a media storm, the telecoms service regulator ICSTIS took action last
month against Jamba and mBlox, the mobile transaction network that delivered
Crazy Frog and other ringtones. An ICSTIS panel found that Jamba “had a careless
disregard and unprofessional attitude to consumers in that it patently failed to
make clear to them the nature of the service”.
Andrew Bud, chairman of mBlox, said tougher requirements imposed on ringtone
subscriptions in August and September had hit business badly and it had still to
recover. “Spring has clearly not come yet but the leaves have stopped falling
off the trees,” he said.
Other ringtone firms report a similar impact. Martin Higginson, chief executive
of Monstermob, which has diversified its business away from Britain, said the
ringtone business had probably been severely damaged. “The number of people
downloading ringtones has increased but the revenue that’s been generated has
Ran Anderson, chief executive of Bango, a systems provider to ringtone firms,
said: “A lot of people have become more nervous about starting subscriptions, or
fearing they’re being tricked into one. The growth has cooled off. People have
got wise to the fact that they can send STOP” — a text to cancel the service
they’ve signed up to.
Results next week from Verisign, the American owner of Jamba, will give evidence
of the extent of the slowdown.
Verisign has already admitted its mobile-content business was harmed by the
Crazy Frog marketing controversy.