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Crazy Frog won't croak again

New future for Jamba

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News Corp is killing Crazy Frog, along with the brands Jamba and Jamster. News Corp's mobile unit today announced a reorganisation of its business to "extend its global leadership in the mobile content industry".

And yes, the hideously annoying frog - the first real star of mobile content, according to Jamba CEO Maura Montanaro - won't croak again.

Fox Mobile Group, a new organisation named after the US TV and movie brand, will now manage three distinct business units focused on mobile content distribution, licensing and production. Although the brands Jamba and Jamster won't disappear immediately, a new mobile brand will be launched for the US market next year.

Jamba was founded in Berlin in 2000 by the Samwer brothers, who also started Alando, which eventually became eBay Germany. In 2004 the company spent €90m on television advertising in Germany alone, but was highly criticised for allegedly misleading customers.

A ring tone based on the weird, annoying thing called Crazy Frog became its biggest success and a worldwide hit single with a remix of "Axel F". After the Crazy Frog ads were shown 40,000 times during a single month on British television, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that children had unwittingly run up large phone bills and ruled that the commercials couldn't be shown before 9pm.

In September 2006 the German television channels MTV, ProSieben, RTL II and Viva refused to air Jamba's advertisement for a Hitler-themed SMS-downloadable cartoon titled "Der Bonker".

When VeriSign bought the business four years ago Jamba's revenue soared to $600m, and in 2006 Rupert Murdoch's News Corp paid approximately $188m for 51 per cent shares in Jamba. It recently paid another $200m for the remaining stake. However, as ring tone sales have dropped dramatically over the last few years, a new strategy will be needed to revitalise the business.

Other vendors will probably still continue to sell the Crazy Frog ringtone, although until recently only Jamba owned the mobile rights. ®

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