John Levy can't read many of his e-mails these days.
That's because an increasing number of messages flooding in to the chief executive officer of Score Media Inc. are arriving in other languages, from places such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Across Europe, the tiny Canadian company's smart-phone application, Score Mobile, has become an unexpected hit on BlackBerrys and iPhones.
"We're having to interpret e-mails in Italian, in Spanish, from literally all over," said Mr. Levy, whose company owns cable sports channel The Score.
"People are saying to us 'Where are my Portuguese soccer league scores? Where is this? Where is that?' "
It's a nice problem for the Toronto-based company to be facing. Score was among the first Canadian media companies to move aggressively into the mobile space several years ago and, after battling lean times in the early days of the business, Score Mobile has now become entrenched.
At the company's annual meeting in Toronto yesterday, Mr. Levy and an executive with Research In Motion Ltd. announced that Score Mobile is now the most popular free sports app on the BlackBerry. Less than a year into retooling the app, it has been downloaded more than two million times between the iPhone and the BlackBerry.
While The Score cable channel is only seen in Canada, the mobile app has proven borderless. About 70 per cent of the downloads of Score Mobile on BlackBerry come from the United States, in addition to the unexpected uptake in Europe, Mr. Levy said.
"Nobody knew who the hell we were in the States; there is no Score in the States," he said in an interview after the meeting.
The trend - the downloads have been growing by roughly 5 per cent a week - is translating into dollars. About 10 per cent of the company's $24-million advertising revenue now comes from the small-screen ads sold on the mobile platform. Two years ago, the number would have been minuscule.
RIM and Score Media are now experimenting with different types of ads that will serve up messages based on the user's location. So a BlackBerry carrier in Vancouver would be shown a different ad than a person in Toronto, similar to how Internet ads are targeted based on city.
"We're doing some things on the BlackBerry platform that are interesting, where you're going to know where people are," said Jeff McDowell, senior vice-president of business marketing and alliances for RIM.
"The advertising market is still in flux. I think the whole industry in mobile is actually undermonetized ... and that's just because how young it is."
RIM wants to offer ads that let the user immediately insert the contact information for a company into their cellphone address book. Mr. McDowell believes advertisers will pay a premium for such features.
For Mr. Levy, the growth of Score Mobile means he is now being taken more seriously by sports leagues wanting to offer mobile content. A few years ago, organizations like the National Hockey League weren't interested in discussing content deals, but the number of downloads Score Mobile now gets has drawn new interest.
"We're starting to get calls from leagues who wouldn't talk to us about digital exposure, and now they're calling us saying what's this app you've got and how come so many people are looking at you?" Mr. Levy said. "They're saying maybe there's a way that you can buy some content from us on a digital basis."
Getting the rights to content is still a challenge. Score Media's deal with the National Basketball Association allows the company to use game highlights on mobile phones, but other leagues still require deals, Mr. Levy said.