Interview: Lucy Hood, CEO, Jamba

It’s been eight months since the startling announcement that News Corp. was acquiring 51 percent of Jamba from VeriSign for $187.5 million as part of a JV and more than three months since the deal closed. In the interim, Lucy Hood, who went heading from a staff of a dozen or so at Fox Mobile to managing 600-plus as CEO of Jamba, has been busy integrating operations with headquarters in Beverly Hill and Berlin. (The bulk of the staff remains based in Berlin.) As part of that, she’s been assembling a management team that is finally filled out: Lee Fenton joined earlier this year as MD and COO; Markus Berger-de León remains as MD of Jamba GmbH, with the new duties of chief sales officer responsible for overseeing territorial and business expansion; and Mark Anderson, most recently at Sony Pictures Entertainment, joins as CFO. Meanwhile, Fox Mobile’s highly publicized Mobizzo storefront has been vaporized, with the assets moved into Jamster.
Jamba hasn’t exactly been standing still but the new team will have to kick into highest gear to reverse the revenue dip that sent VeriSign into a JV. VeriSign acquired Jamba in 2004 for $273 million in cash and stock. Hood and I talked at length recently about Jamba and the mobile landscape.

Some excerpts:
The JV: Hood: “It combines the resources of Jamba, which is in 35 countries, 25 languages, available to 1 billion people with well over 100 carrier connections, combines that global reach with the resources and the innovation at News Corp. … The goals are to offer a portfolio of mobile businesses to the market .. you’ve seen a lot of personalization products, more text, it’s low-tech, b2c and b2b.”

Mobizzo: Hood: “We launched Mobizzo and there was such a positive response … News Corp. management charged me with going global. We couldn’t build sites fast enough and that is the moment it became clear an alliance was what was needed. … ” When I asked if Mobizzo was a failure, Hood replied: “Well, it led to the Jamba partnership. … All of the Mobizzo content is now on Jamster.”

Financial outlook: Hood wouldn’t talk specifics but you only have to look at VeriSign’s earnings for the past few quarters to see Jamba’s downward trajectory. I asked her how they would move the dial in the other direction. Hood: “If you think about it, it’s creating global content distribution so the economics for us of being able to offer Borat-i-sodes from the Borat movie in 35 countries, or a piece of sponsored content, to let a sponsor know its available to over 1 billion consumers, think about that reach. There’s really not another delivery mechanism outside the internet that can offer that kind of reach.” I asked if they could turn it around this year; she replied: ‘This is going to be a very exciting year. You’re about to see a number of announcements from Jamba … more about The Simpsons‘ launch plans; that’s a strategic move now with the launch of the film.” (When you search for Simpsons now on Jamster, you get Jessica.) The Simpsons’ launch is Jamba’s most obvious chance for a major hit — the show is running in 60 countries.

Business news: I asked if Jamba is involved in the planning for the Fox Business News Channel, really the first chance Fox has had to create a new channel from the ground up with new media as an integral part. Hood, who once was Neil Cavuto’s producer, looks at business news and sees a global audience: “Think about all the travelers, the international business people who will be interested in getting bulletins, video, updates. They’re flying around. The only way you can reach them is by cell phone. This is the potential that we expect to realize at Jamba in the next year.”

Music: Hood: “As we’re launching new territories, Latin America, India, you’re going to see more polyphonics.” She added that Jamba has launched a full-track music service in German and is looking at rollouts now.

Carriers: Hood: “If you think about it, working across carriers is the most efficient way to deliver mass content.” But, she said, Fox Mobile Entertainment will continue to do exclusive content deals with partners, too. Often, to start with one carrier and then roll it out across carriers is most efficient.”

Mobile TV: Nobody has announced mobile TV DVR yet but Hood said she thinks that’s where mobile is heading and that they are working on that with News Corp. sibling TV Guide: “I suspect you will see an application that does that (mobile DVR) in the next 12 months.” When I pointed out you could watch episodes of canceled shows on Fox Mobile’s Media Flo channel in addition to 24, Prison Break, Hood said, “We’re talking about the idea of premiering a show on mobile. … We think it