The multi-screen movement is on the roll in the region today but strangely enough, traditional telcos are not leading the pack. Broadcasters and media companies are making rapid advances in this space while the telco players are carefully manoeuvering the changing landscape and playing catch-up. OSN recently launched its Play service offering subscribers the opportunity […]
The multi-screen movement is on the roll in the region today but strangely enough, traditional telcos are not leading the pack. Broadcasters and media companies are making rapid advances in this space while the telco players are carefully manoeuvering the changing landscape and playing catch-up. OSN recently launched its Play service offering subscribers the opportunity to extend their viewing experience to the PC. MBC and Dubai Media Inc. have been delivering video online for a while. Why are the broadcasters and media companies breaking new ground that, in essence, was ripe for the operators taking?
It is, by no means, a lack of knowledge on the part of the operators. The culture and history of operators reveals the reasons for their apathy in the new media industry. After all, traditional telcos are very large organisations, with layers of processes, controls, and checks and balances. While perfectly suited to manage operations in the traditional arena (infrastructure, mobile services, fixed-line services, enterprise services, etc.), they are not built to make sudden moves and changes that are critical to success within the media industry.
In the current landscape, opportunities present themselves at much smaller timescales requiring quick decisions and actions. This is truly asking the impossible of a monopoly telco. Does that mean it is time to throw in the towel? If they did that, they would be turning their backs on billions in revenue, if not more.
The shocking part is that the operators have known this for several years. The multi-screen movement around content, platforms and services has been a long time coming. Many of the major consulting organisations that serve as advisors to operators have been forecasting the events of today. Not only did they foresee what the landscape would look like, they also predicted what opportunities will exist, along with the plan to capitalise on it.
While some group operators have moved aggressively to prepare for these changes, others have adopted the wait-and-see attitude. The operators that truly embraced the strategy to enter the digital media services space have acknowledged the limitations of their traditional structure and DNA. Only once you acknowledge the issues can you begin to work to resolve them. Operators willing to take the bull by the horns went on to form digital media services divisions within their organisation.
The approach was to aggregate content, platforms and VAS within a single unit. Leveraging the operators size and reach, the new teams are able to utilise the group operators buying power to acquire content and services at very competitive rates.
Once all the acquisitions are complete, the new media division would spin off into an independent company with its own funding and governance. Equipped with content, services and an aggressive team of professionals, such an entity can provide very attractive pricing and respond to the market in ways that a traditional telco is not designed to respond.
This new digital media services company could then start to offer an attractive combination of platforms, services and content to all of the operators within the group.
Once opportunities within the group are exhausted, similar solutions could be offered to regional telcos and ISPs. This can be done either the traditional way of dropping truckloads of equipment and professional services or, by simply offering turnkey solutions as a service. Granted, sensitivities may arise when one operator offers a service to another operator.
However, if the solution provider is not an operator but an independent digital media services company, one can greatly minimise the complications in that relationship. Fellow operators and ISPs are not the only potential clients. Broadcasters, media companies and enterprises also fall into that category.
The very same companies that are leading the industry movement today could have been clients and partners, leveraging the investments made by local operators in a revenue increasing manner. That being said, some operators in the region have made good progress, given the existence of Intigral (STC & ASTRO JV), and Qtels Media House. These frontrunners already offer or plan on offering platforms for IPTV, OTT, advertising, music and applications, in addition to the content for the respective platforms.
For operators that havent yet taken the plunge, the strategy is to focus on traditional business models and Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) while acquiring new platforms and services from the few successful digital media companies.
Jamal Bnari is a specialist in new media technology strategy and product development, and presently heads Visual Unitys sales and marketing operations in the Middle East and Asia.