Happy Burden Steals Reality Shows, by Andrew Dodd
Credit: The Australian - 5th January 2004
Burden has plenty to smile about when star-crazed
teenagers vote for their favourite Australian Idol
pop star or Big Brother house mate.
fact, the chief executive of Legion Interactive probably
has more to gain than the ultimate victors of these
new-style TV shows because, no matter who the fans
are voting for, he always comes out the winner.
Burden is one of three managers who together own 46
per cent of Legion Interactive -- a company that specialises
in media-based interactive competitions.
clients include the Seven and Ten networks, as
well as Fairfax, Murdoch magazines, Southern Cross
Broadcasting, 2GB and Austar.
appears to be thriving. All those one-eyed fans who
are caught by the allure of so-called reality shows
such as Big Brother have proved a bankable resource,
delivering the private company enough cash to allow
it to expand rapidly into new spheres.
now operates interactive services on email, the internet,
SMS and telephone, and packages a wide range of soft-sell
marketing ideas for corporate and media clients.
company has just opened a new office in Auckland and
there's talk of taking the Legion model to the US
to replicate its Australian success.
Burden started out as a mobile telephone salesman
when the phones were first launched in Australia.
In 1989 he worked in 0055 numbers -- although, he
stresses, not the sex lines.
years ago, he joined Legion and started pitching ideas
on how to harness new communications technology for
marketing and making money.
business is going through an enormous growth phase
currently, "he says, referring to Legion's purchase
of Blue Sky Frog, which he describes as `Australia's
largest mobile content retailer'.
Sky Frog was purchased from Vodafone in September
2002 and specialises in the stuff that teenagers understand
and their parents pay for, such as `polyphonic java
games and wallpapers for mobiles'.
other expertise is very much our ability to interact
with mass consumers at the same time, like when we
do some of these large TV events,' he says. Frustratingly,
Legion doesn't reveal just how many mass consumers
it reaches through events such as World Idol because
the show's producers, Fremantle, and the Ten Network
would rather not say how many people are coughing
up 55c each time they vote for their favourite contestant.
If Legion revealed the true numbers of votes it received,
it might even manage to substantiate the on-air spruiking
on such shows. Currently there's no way of knowing
whether a presenter who claims that voting is close
is telling the truth or merely doing what it takes
to keep the calls coming and the revenue flowing.
Burden says that's frustrating too. But, he argues,
that's a price he has to pay.`It would be a wonderful
thing (to allow more transparency) but when you work
in this sort of environment, it's very important that
we respect our clients' confidentiality.'
capital firm Equity Partners purchased 54 per cent
of Legion as part of a management buyout two years
Burden says the company is now half way through a
four-year plan, leading to the exit of Equity Partners.
After that there's the possibility of a public float.
`We've certainly been flattered by a number of offers
of late. But we are continuing to execute our strategy.'
`Currently we're looking for growth and we're working
very hard to take our model and put it into the US
where this sort of technology is a couple of years
behind ours, so we think we've got some fairly good
opportunities to replicate what we've done here in
the US.' But don't expect Mr Burden to nominate Legion's
market value or give away trade secrets about its
revenue. `We're not talking too much about its value
at the moment because we don't have a need, but it's
significantly grown in revenues and we're actively
looking for more acquisitions in this market or overseas,'
Mediaman: Reality TV