Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Viggle Needs Income to Make Its Share Price Jiggle

Viggle (VGGL) is one of those small online companies crying out for attention.  I'll be generous and give them some.  Their main properties are an entertainment rewards platform, a content sharing platform, and an audience analytics suite.  My Google searches of those terms reveal that none of Viggle's brands are on the first page of search results.  That must be discouraging for these folks.  Viggle's app partnership with DirecTV counts as a good user engagement method but I don't see what would prevent DirecTV from tweaking its own apps to capture Viggle's rewards traffic.

The Viggle team is extremely large for an app developer.  Consider that successful app companies in Silicon Valley have a handful of employees.  Their financial statements should indicate whether all of these people add value.  The 8-K dated June 25, 2014 reveals a merger with Choose Digital that cost Viggle almost 2M shares (a significant dilution) and created a contingent payment of almost $4.8M, payable in about a year.  That wouldn't be such a bad hole to crawl out of if Viggle had sufficient net earnings to pay it off.  Unfortunately, the 10-Q for May 14, 2014 shows Viggle is not profitable.  They had about $1.4M in cash on hand back in March but lost almost -$14M for that quarter.  That burn rate puts them at going concern risk on a weekly basis.  Check out their SGA of $18.8M; that's what that huge team displayed on their website costs.  Silicon Valley VCs get sticker shock when they fund a company that blows through its investment hiring unneeded people before their sales justify expansion.

Viggle is a good case study showing that user engagement stats and lots of app store downloads don't necessarily translate into revenue.  The history of this company as entities named Function (X) and Gateway Industries escapes me, but it's irrelevant.  This one really reminds me of Inuvo, another Web portal I evaluated today.  Only so many online rewards marketplaces will ultimately prove viable; the rest will end up selling to each other in a frenzy of blowout, self-cannibalizing referrals.  I've given Viggle more attention than it deserves.  It will get more attention if it cuts its burn rate and becomes profitable.

Full disclosure:  No position in VGGL at this time.