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Kevin Smith

Littlewoods Launches ITV Betting Service

17 June 2004

Sportech PLC, owner of Littlewoods Gaming, last week rolled out a new betting platform for in-home use with interactive TVs. The launch comes two years into the partners' five year-agreement and just in time for the anticipated Euro 2004 betting frenzy.

"Littlewoods Bet Direct," available through ITV's interactive platform, ITVi, was met with great success during the opening weekend of Euro 2004 football matches.

Football is the main focus, but punters can also bet on racing and other popular sports.

The new service marks Sportech's entry into the interactive TV space and makes Littlewoods the only fixed-odds betting service available within ITV's interactive menu.

BetDirect will be a permanent presence behind the main ITV1 and ITV2 broadcast channels, forming a key element of the network's 24/7 interactive TV services on ITVi.

Punters access the system via remote control while the ITV programming remains in a quarter of the screen. As with most interactive TV betting platforms, the system offers a plethora of options.

In addition to in-game betting options and proposition bets, punters can access tournament information and news from other matches. They can bet not only on who will win a particular match, but also on who will score the first goal, how many corner kicks will be awarded for each team and a host of other bets.

Sportech launched a massive advertising campaign for the new product during the opening weekend of the Euro 2004 championship. The company is hoping to leverage business from the more than 7.3 million digital households with access to ITVi service.

Managing Director George Rushton said going live prior to the start of the tournament was key. Now, he said, the focus is on retaining punters who use the system for the first time during the three-week tournament.

"Euro 2004 provides an ideal opportunity to introduce ITV viewers to our interactive betting service," Rushton said. "This launch highlights that Sportech is now delivering a leading interactive betting experience into the home. We look forward to unveiling further gaming opportunities in the near future."

ITVi also indicated that the new service could mark the beginning of a shift toward a heavier emphasis on gaming through the TV.

"This is just the start," Jane Marshall, controller of interactive at ITV, explained. "We look forward to offering a comprehensive range of entertainment and betting services across a wide range of shows on ITV over the coming months and years."

Additional applications are likely to include mobile services and fixed-odds games operated under the Littlewoods Game On brand.

Other providers, namely BSkyB, have launched similar systems in the last year. Sky expanded its betting service this year when it added casino-style gaming to its interactive betting platform.

Officials with Sportech and ITVi didn't speculate whether future systems are in development to compete with the Sky system, but did indicate that the emphasis would be on adapting the system for existing ITVi programming that might be outside traditional betting avenues.

"This is the type of technology that could be implemented far beyond just sporting events," Marshall said. "This could be used as another way to get viewers involved in the programming and maybe even create special programming just for the betting service."

Screen Digest predicts that the market for interactive betting through the TV could be worth as much as £2.7 billion by 2007.

Littlewoods Launches ITV Betting Service is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith