When Charles Butler took on the role of chief executive at Netplay TV (LON:NPT) last November he was immediately faced with turning around the fortunes of the interactive gaming group. In 10 years on London's Alternative Investment Market Netplay TV has evolved from selling telephone and online information services to establishing a niche position in the UK's gambling sector. In its first set of half-year results since Butler's appointment, the company moved back in to profitability and is now eyeing opportunities to expand through mobile gaming and into international markets.
For Butler – an accountant by trade and a seasoned gaming industry mover who previously ran and later sold Bowman International to Bet365 Group in 2006 – the strategic changes at Netplay have been plotted carefully. Having joined the company as FD in January 2010, his approach has involved stripping out loss-making contracts and focusing on nurturing its core Casino service. He is in little doubt that the critical aspect of the group's offering – it has deals with terrestrial broadcasters including ITV1 and Channel 5 – have set it apart in a burgeoning market. Every night (six nights on ITV1) its SuperCasino and Challenge Jackpot brands air to hundreds of thousands of viewers, providing, what he says, is a giant advert for Netplay TV's services and engaging new customers.
According to industry analysts H2 Gambling Capital, Europe is expected to continue to grow its share of the global eGaming market in 2011 with 47.2% up from 31.5% in 2006. This is being boosted by a wave of regulatory go-aheads from governments including Italy this year and the likely addition in the near future of the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium and Spain. By comparison, North America has seen its share of interactive gambling fall from 30.5% in 2006 to an expected 16.7% in the current year. Japan Asia/the Middle East is expected to account for 27.7% of the market this year though this is 4.5% lower than the region's share of the market five years ago.
Charles, tell me about how the interactive gaming market is changing and the opportunities your strategy at Netplay TV?
It is an industry that has moved quickly and I think is still moving incredibly quickly, I think it has grown up an awful lot over the last 10 years and become…