Should TV shows end app voting after high-profile mess-ups?

UK regulators will next month consider whether to go on allowing voting in TV talent shows via mobile apps, following high-profile slip-ups by one of the industry’s leading vendors.

When UK commercial TV leader ITV announced it would take voting for its Britain’s Got Talent show via mobile app this May, it was supposed to herald the next step in the premium mobile TV participation phenomenon.

But insufficient testing meant the broadcaster could not process half of votes paid for by mobile users, and ITV had to abandon the app mid-series. In a complaint adjudication published by Ofcom on Monday, ITV said it had lost 51 percent of votes which came in via the mobile app.

The voting platform, which comprised part of the Britain’s Got Talent iOS app, was provided by one of the industry’s biggest providers, Velti-owned Mobile Interactive Group (MIG). Show viewers could pay £1.49 through iTunes Store for a block of three votes through the app. Mid-season, ITV said the app had clocked 500,000 downloads. But there was not enough capacity in place to process all votes. ITV refunded customers who applied.

ITV blames MIG for a “firewall misconfiguration” which derailed the plan, according to Ofcom:

The provider did not load-test the full infrastructure end-to-end and did not anticipate the firewall problem that occurred.

“ITV said that changes to the process will include enhanced overall project management, the requirement for ITV project managers to review all test data, and improved communication between developers and platform providers so that risks can be identified at an early stage.”

Although telephone and SMS have been permitted channels for premium TV interaction for some years, Ofcom only allowed voting via smartphone app in November 2010. It began allowing the practise during a year-long trial begun in August 2011.

MIG, which was acquired by Velti for up to $54 million in November, has been the vendor to offer its services hardest to broadcasters during the trial.

  1. But the ITV error is not the only time backend services have failed on projects involving MIG…
  2. Mobile voting systems also fell over during November’s live final of Channel 5’s Big Brother, on which MIG worked and which took mobile votes through Facebook Credits. The broadcaster blamed the crash on “exceptionally high traffic levels across the entire Big Brother application (i.e. not just traffic from those wishing to vote).
  3. Almost 2,000 paid app votes were lost from Sky 1’s Got To Dance show in March.

Ofcom told paidContent the trial will end mid-August. Velti did not respond to request for comment.