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    EDITORIAL World Telemedia Marbella 2023 – the show that quite literally rocked

    World Telemedia Marbella 2023 rocked – almost literally as it was in the magnificent Hard Rock Hotel and featured members of rock band Ocean Colour Scene – but more it rocked in terms of record numbers of attendees, thought-provoking conference sessions and a general air of an industry finally starting to emerge from the margins and, (iron) butterfly-like spread its wings across the entertainment market.

    Sitting in the conference and talking extensively to delegates on the show floor and at the numerous parties and networking events, it was clear that the consumer market is now more than ready for the powerful combination of content, billing and messaging that have come to define the telemedia sector in recent years. So what did we learn?

    Content-ment

    The mVAS market is currently booming globally, with long-form and short-form content – and everything in between – driving the market forward at speed. In any downturn, cheap entertainment comes to the fore and the current global economic climate has been a boon for short, cheap, snackable content.

    According to Julia Di Mambro at Seriously Fresh Media, shorter, stickier content is currently a big seller, with news and RSS feeds particularly popular. As she discusses in this video, the need for short content is only one factor – there is also the need to have customers coming back for more. This is perhaps the biggest trend in content that is shaping the VAS content market currently and one that makes it ultra-competitive with the onus on content providers to come up with not only high quality content, but also content that is sticky.

     

    This was backed up by Jean-Pierre du Toit from SportLocker who outlined at the event just how sports content and content that augments mainstream media sports content fits the bill exactly. People love sports the world over and having access to extra behind-the-scenes content is really driving the market.

    This is particularly true in developing markets, where sports – both regionally localised and international – has become a massive money spinner and is delivering the kind of stickiness that di Mambro identified.

    As Samuel Chiwanda from Malawi’s Click Mobile points out in the video below, this kind of content is huge in Africa. But beware, he warns, while the consumer market for content in the region is rapidly growing – a challenge in terms of keeping pace with new content – regulation, glacial movement by operators, governments and financial institutions in the region is acting as a break on growth.

     

    However, this is only part of the picture. In developed markets, lifestyle content and deep dives into everything from cookery to DIY to car maintenance is also becoming a key shaper of the market. While younger consumers are increasingly looking for SnapChat, TikTok and Youtube Shorts styled instant fixes of entertainment, there is a growing millennial and boomer market for longer form, instructional content. If this can be serialised, then it also builds in that much needed stickiness.

    Web3.0 and the metaverse

    While we are looking at content, we can’t ignore web3.0 and the metaverse. While note explicitly covered at the show, there were some interesting tasters of what might be coming. Tony Pearce, head of Reality Gaming presented a look at blockchain backed games developed, for among others the BBC, that offer NFT collectables that take the idea of trading games to a new and thoroughly Web3.0 level. While none of the people playing these games probably give a monkey’s about Web3.0, Pearce gave an interesting insight into where content is heading.

     

    Talking to other content providers across the show revealed that, while they were all very much aware of Web3.0 and the metaverse, it wasn’t yet on the radar. Of course, consumers aren’t there yet in sufficient numbers, but it is coming. The combination of immersive, blockchain-backed, AI-powered internet – Web 3.0 – is going to be a seismic shift in how people use the web and it is going to happen – worth looking out for at World Telemedia 2024.

    Getting the messaging message across

    The second aspect of the modern telemedia market is messaging. Connecting consumer with content, along with providing businesses with ways to reach out to consumers, has become big business. And it there has certainly been a blurring of the lines between ‘business messaging’, marketing and consumer messaging – a blurring that has seen messaging start to become a vital bridge between content consumption and payments (see below).

    According to HORISEN’s CEO Fabrizio Salanitri, SMS still dominates the business messaging market, but it is increasingly becoming fragmented as services such as RCS, WhatsApp, Telegram and social media messaging start to becoming preferred channels for consumers to interact with businesses.

    OTT messaging is becoming increasingly important to users and getting the balance right between messaging types on offer is a key driver for the telemedia industry. While much is predicated on SMS, services and payments also need to work with OTT messaging.

    The opening panel – featuring Michael Maginot from Link Mobility, Muktesh Narula from Pinnacle, HORISEN’s Salanitri and Mobilesquared’s Nick Lane – covered just how important this is, with Mobilesquared’s Lane pointing out that globally there are 5.63bn unique SMS users, however by the end of 2023, 81% will also be using rich messaging of some kind, with around 3bn on WhatsApp.

    However, Lane also points out that business messaging is still nowhere near its full potential, with only a tiny fraction of global businesses using it as part of their marketing strategy. Currently it is seen as a customer care tool, however leveraging its reach for marketing could see the level of messaging go stratospheric in the coming years – something that will see MNOs sit up and take note of just how powerful, and lucrative, messaging can be for them if they start to treat it as more than just an addendum to their voice and data businesses.

    With Google having a significant presence at the show promoting their (non-messaging) advertising, it is clear that marketing and telemedia are set to collide in the coming 24 months to offer some truly powerful options. Who knows, it may even see Google’s RCS messaging take off.

    Payments

    The third essential of modern telemedia is payments. The industry has long been underpinned by carrier billing, but only now is DCB starting to become a widely accepted payment tool.

    In developing markets carrier billing is pretty much the only game in town to support the burgeoning content market discussed earlier. Despite carrier often taking as much as 60% of the fee – something that makes the market all but unsustainable in the longer term – it has driven uptake of these services to new heights.

    With credit card and bank account penetration still very low, DCB is pretty the only option for many customers in these regions and so, despite the poor payouts, content providers plough on.

    As the market grows – and as more mainstream brands such as Netflix start to exploit this market – it is likely that these rates will improve. These big players have certainly had that impact on the content market in the developed world, forcing operators to re-evaluate their DCB payouts for these brands and usher in an era where carrier billing actually has a place in the pantheon of payments.

    A prime example of this has been seen in Germany, where operators have got together to give carrier billing a brand name and run a round of promotional activity to get people using it – as discussed in the video by Sam Media at the DCB Summit in Amsterdam a few weeks before World Telemedia Marbella.

    This has already seen huge uptake across Germany, as DIMOCO’s Bernd Pilcher explains to us at the show…

    Where DCB fits in with all the other payment method available – wallets, QR payments, bank transfers et al – has also become a crucial talking point. As Gary Corbett from Dynamic Mobile Billing discussed with us in Marbella, DCB is just one of many payment tools and the payment market is now very much more about offering choice and using payments – particularly DCB – as an on-boarding tool.

    This chimes with where we started this run through of World Telemedia Marbella, with content and VAS having to be easy and sticky. Getting people – via rich messaging, of course – to your service is just the start. Giving them content they want to access is then vital. But making it easy to pay, even if just for that first taste, is perhaps the most important part. Here DCB comes into its own, acting as a fast track into content and allowing the content provider to then give the customer myriad options as to how to then pay/subscribe to keep them there.

    Fraud (and *whispers* AIT)

    While Telemedia is dominated by this triumvirate of services – messaging, payments and content – there is always the ever present issue of fraud.

    The growing use of DCB has seen growth in DCB fraud. Companies such as Evina have done much to combat this, but, as Farid Taha, Chief Customer Officer at Evina says in the show interview below, as fast as this is clamped down on, the fraudsters pop up elsewhere.

    As DCB fraud is policed more stringently, so the hackers are turning to ad fraud, artificial inflation of traffic (AIT) and even deception fraud (often powered by AI) to target users.

    While telemedia services are set to grow and grow, the ever-present threat of fraud is always there and will always be part of the show, let alone the market. But, hey, it keeps things exciting, right?

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