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MEET THE PEOPLE James Macfarlane, CEO of PM Connect

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“Every day there is both a new challenge and a new opportunity, and that’s what I love about mobile.“ So says James Macfarlane, CEO of PM Connect, a company that makes in-demand content accessible to all through mobile distribution.

Specialising in partnering billion-dollar brands with mobile carriers, monetising D2C products through mobile marketing, data, payments and infrastructure, McFarlane started the company in his bedroom in 2012.

“From our beginnings as a start-up nearly 10 years ago, we are now active in 40+ territories, driving 25 million payments every month with five offices around the world and relationships with 70+ MNOs”, he says. Here he talks about how we have only just begun to scratch the surface of DCB, but it’s nothing without accessibility.

Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for telemedia services?

There are huge opportunities out there internationally. In fact, the majority of our business is outside our home UK market – where we have global partnerships with leading brands like the NBA, WWE, Eurosport – alongside some of the biggest mobile operators in the world such as Orange Group, Vodafone Group and MTN Group.

The African market is a massive one for us, and we’re making great strides over there – as well as Asia Pacific, alongside our strongholds in Western Europe.

Which content and/or applications do you see being the most likely to benefit from telemedia billing and/or marketing technologies?

The rise in OTT subscription services from major brands is of huge value to our sector, particularly in the sports arena. We recently announced our partnership with the NBA for its flagship NBA League Pass product, where we’re handling the mobile distribution, marketing and payments in seven of its territories – including European heavyweights France and Spain, alongside high-growth markets such as South Africa.

This was a huge moment for mobile distribution, where a company like PM Connect is fully integrating with one of the biggest brands in global sport as a strategic partner – not just a payments provider.

Do you think that Direct Carrier Billing can become mainstream and in which markets?

It’s funny, I saw an article on here saying that DCB is ‘old technology’, but we’re only just scratching the surface of DCB’s potential. What people forget is that MNOs are the original big players for direct-to-consumer promotion, with incredible reach in their infrastructures – which will only become more valuable as 5G is rolled out.

Forget DCB in isolation, mobile distribution offers huge opportunity for top-tier brands such as Spotify and Netflix. We see a very bright future for sustainable growth where mobile is the go-to solution to promote products or subscription services that consumers actually want – rather than outdated VAS or novelty games. It’s a hugely misunderstood market, and our tech infrastructure can leverage big brands to connect with global carriers within months.

Our whitepaper, ‘The Future of DCB’, predicted that the DCB market will be worth $28bn by 2023 – I firmly stand behind that. It’s no longer just DCB that we can sell, when you can account for all the distribution opportunities mobile infrastructure presents for brands, the value potential is huge.

What are the key drivers and inhibitors for growth?

Accessibility is without question the biggest driver for growth in mobile distribution and payments. At PM Connect, we’re passionate about the democratisation of content – making the biggest and best brands in the world accessible to all. In many countries around the world mobile is not only consumers first screen, but their only screen.

This coupled with the rise of OTT, D2C and 5G is the perfect storm for the mobile infrastructure to thrive. Take the OG’s of direct to consumer and partner them with the biggest and best brands that drive emotional connections – that’s a catalyst for massive growth for both parties.

Both the opportunity and the inhibitor to our market is that there is no homogenisation in our industry across carriers, and that’s the problem our technology can solve.

Your words of wisdom: On a more personal level, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and one you would give others?

It sounds simple: invest in people. Hire hungry, intelligent and motivated individuals to drive your business forward – and do everything you can to keep hold of them.

If you do that, the rest will take care of itself.

What have been the most significant effects of Covid19 on the market and have you taken any “positives” from such a challenging set of circumstances?

For PM Connect, lockdown has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, the market for content has boomed, and mobile usage has skyrocketed – two things that have undoubtedly helped us.

On the flipside, it has presented lots of operational challenges. We moved to complete remote working for a year, which has its pros and cons. A positive is that the team has performed exceptionally well and our productivity has been through the roof. However, communication between teams is sometimes difficult and we want to ensure that no one is stuck in silos.

That being said, we’re in a really good place – and have now moved to a flexi model, which is the best of both worlds. I couldn’t be more excited for what’s next for the business.

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