UK distributor of VideoPlus loses franchise

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THE COMPANY that distributes VideoPlus, the video programming handset for the technologically illiterate, has stopped trading.

Video Technology Marketing has lost its UK franchise just eight months after the high-profile introduction of VideoPlus, which enables viewers to programme their machines by pressing numbers carried in newspapers and magazines into the handsets.

According to one informed source, VTM'owes creditors several hundred thousand pounds'.

Until recently, the business was chaired by Marcus Bicknell, former commercial director of SES, the Luxembourg company that owns the Astra satellite.

It is thought that the company, which spent heavily on sales and promotion, was seriously under-funded. This led to disagreements inside the company and with VTM consultant Vincent Donohoe. It is understood he helped to persuade Gemstar Development, the California high-tech company that owns VideoPlus, to award the UK franchise to VTM last year.

Neither Mr Donohoe nor Mr Bicknell, who lives in France, were available to comment on VTM.

Gemstar has taken back the UK franchise and will continue to sell the product in association with Acomex, a new UK company.

'VTM did not operate the business in a manner that supported the product, so we have taken back the marketing,' said Paul Newman, the American managing director of Gemstar's European operation. Gemstar plans to introduce VideoPlus in four other European countries later this year.

The product was a huge success in the US. It sold well as a gift item when it was launched in Britain last Christmas, despite costing nearly pounds 70 apiece, though sales have since been affected by the high-street slump.

'We have contacted all the publishers and also retailers, and we have put in place a smooth transition,' said Louise Wannier, Gemstar's chief operating officer.

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