European ad-funded startup MVNO Blyk may not be hitting the numbers. Media buyers – who were lined-up to buy the text and MMS ads sent to teens who were supposed to subscribe in return for Blyk’s (almost) free network – are worried the subscriber base is not looking so good. NMA reports that fewer than 30,000 people have signed up in the first five months. Given that most media buyers think in terms of millions when it comes to digital media (impressions, texts, you name it), 30,000 does not afford the kind of reach they normally look for. It probably doesn’t help their numbers that Blyk only sells SIM-free handsets which can cost anywhere from £38 up to £279 – the kiss of death for the average Blyk target audience of 16-24 years who generally expect a free, subsidised handset. There are also rumours that kids are buying into Blyk but then turning off the advertising messages which they are supposed to opt into. Not so good.
Despite the numbers, Blyk is ploughing on with a launch in the Netherlands. Founded by ex-Nokia president Pekka Ala-Pietilä and Antti Ohrling, Blyk has undisclosed investment from Goldman Sachs and the Industrial and Financial Investments Company (IFIC) as well as Sofinnova Partners and some private investors.