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Sprint taps Australian startup for lockscreen ads to lower bills

The deal, for an undisclosed amount, will give Boost Mobile customers discounts on their phone bills when they agree to have ads displayed on their unlock screen.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Australian startup Unlockd has signed a deal with Sprint Telecom subsidiary Boost Mobile in the United States, bringing its advertising platform to over 9 million US customers.

The startup enables users to decrease their monthly phone bills by $5, in return agreeing to have ads from Unlockd partners displayed when they unlock their device. Some of the companies that Unlockd has already partnered with on advertising content include the streaming service Hulu, coffee chain Starbucks, clothing company Levi's, and ride-share app Lyft.

Boost Mobile and Unlockd have also partnered with Yahoo and Twitter to integrate Yahoo's search bar into the unlock screen, as well as offer Twitter users exclusive deals and offers through its digital ad marketplace MoPub.

According to Doug Smith, director of Prepaid at Sprint Telecom, Unlockd has developed a new revenue stream for telecommunications providers, allowing telcos rather than the media and content industry to capitalise on advertising revenue for the first time.

"Providing Boost subscribers with options to reduce their cost to communicate is in line with our goal of being the value leader in prepaid," Smith said.

"Boost Dealz, built on the Unlockd solution, is an industry-first, completely optional opportunity for our customers to earn value in exchange for learning about products and services aligned with their interests. In addition, it delivers a new revenue stream to our business while providing an innovative avenue for advertisers and media publishers to reach a highly targeted audience."

Should Sprint decide to implement Unlockd on all of its mobile services, the startup's reach would extend to 58 million customers in the US.

While Unlockd began in Melbourne, launching in October last year with Lebara Mobile, it now has offices in London, New York, and Seattle. It plans to be available in six markets across the globe by the end of this year, with Unlockd CEO and co-founder Matt Berriman saying the company has already secured partnerships with telcos in the United Kingdom, Asia, and Europe.

"Unlockd has solved one of the biggest problems facing the global telecommunications industry, which is how to offer a lower consumer price point while also stabilising or increasing ARPU through new revenue streams," Berriman said.

"Consumers have been crying out for new ways to pay for skyrocketing smartphone usage, and Unlockd lets them keep their phone bills down while delivering smart ads, offers, and content that they find relevant and useful."

Earlier on Tuesday, Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati revealed that the company is planning to cut operating costs by $2 billion in order to continue competing with rival telcos Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

At the end of the fiscal third quarter, Sprint announced revenues of $8.1 billion, down 10 percent or $836 million year on year. It also announced cash and equivalents of $2.17 billion, down 37 percent year on year from the $3.45 billion reported during the same period last year.

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