Julia Dimambro is founder and CEO of Seriously Fresh Media explains how post-pandemic growth is going to come from Africa, Europe and the Americas, but worries that innovation in VAS and DCB is still being hindered by telcos
What does you company do?
Seriously Fresh Media (SFM) specializes in secure and easy licensing of premium video content for international, multi-channel providers of streamed and VAS entertainment.
SFM doesn’t simply aggregate content and distribute it to clients. Instead, provide highly specialised access to an international network of renowned producers and studios who create geo-targeted, platform-tailored, and language-specific videos.
Additionally, they offer production services for bespoke and unique content, marketing materials, and branding.
What sectors does your business operate in?
- Value added services
- Other (please specify) VOD, OTT, Streaming
Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for your telemedia services in 2022?
We really are international, although after 22 years in business, we have definitely seen spikes ad trends for specific geos over the years. For 2023 specifically, we are seeing a lot of interest for Africa, Europe and the Americas.
To what extent has the pandemic affected your customer’s behaviour and have you been able to explore new opportunities as a result?
During the pandemic, we saw an unprecedented rise in requests for content around wellness, health, fitness at home, which wasn’t surprising.
However, there has been a noticeable increase in requests for longer-form programming since early summer last year (post pandemic). Things like movies, documentaries and series.
My theory on this would be the increase in entertainment viewing numbers during all the lockdowns has not only encouraged services to provision the increased demand they saw, but on the consumer side, the actual habit or routine of settling down to watch something entertaining and be able to switch off from all the drama that was happening in the world has continued post pandemic.
Let’s face it, the drama hasn’t subsided since the end of pandemic. It seems like one crisis after another, so if sitting down in front of a movie with the family became that ‘enjoyable part of the day’ during the pandemic – an escape from the news and the drama of the outside world, then subconsciously this activity may have continued as a form of escape / solace from the ongoing dramas that continue to dominate the headlines today. Hence the continued increase in demand for these formats.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?
Drinking and eating too much! Just kidding. For Seriously Fresh, it was the drop in orders. We still received as many requests for content – clients looking for ways to monetise a bad situation – such as fitness / wellness content, however the insecurity of the pandemic and what would happen afterwards with the economy meant that few people felt confident about parting with their dollars.
That said, my goodness our industry as a whole continued pretty much unaffected compared to sectors like hospitality and retail, so we are incredibly grateful for that.
What new opportunities have arisen as a result of the pandemic?
We have the feeling at SFM that the industry is currently ‘making hay whilst the sun shines’ (as we say in English), which basically means taking advantage of the moment. It seems like we are now living in a continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode, and have no idea when the next calamity will be! So personally, I have a sense that industry and business generally is clambering to do new deals, build great services and create financial security now in order to see us through the next crisis!
Which content and/or applications do you see being the most likely to benefit from telemedia billing technologies?
This is not my area of expertise, but I would assume that biggest benefit of billing systems like DCB (Direct Carrier Billing) and perhaps why the mobile entertainment market is still determined by the wishes of the Telcos to such a large extent, is down to immediacy of the transaction. This has a two-fold commercial benefit when it’s combined with impulsive purchasing, and coupled with a society hell bent on instant gratification. If that isn’t a winning combination, I don’t know what it!
What are the key drivers and inhibitors for growth?
For growth it’s the impulsive nature of billing systems like DCB as explained above, for inhibitors, I have long felt that genuine innovation in VAS + DCB is considerably restricted by the current approval processes of the Telcos and the consequential 4-6 month breakeven point on launching a new service. It creates to much upfront risk and barriers for smaller, innovative agencies.
I think for real innovation to thrive within mobile entertainment and VAS, a more streamlined and objective processes need to be established between the telcos and service providers. What those are, I’m not sure, but maybe other entertainment sectors and disruptive innovations like Netflix might help us define something better for mobile.
How likely is it that crypto currencies will become popular telemedia/mobile payment mechanisms for premium content, services and applications?
Regarding Crypto currencies, once the crypto market matures and stabilises, crypto will offer a fantastic alternative to DCB – allowing international, quick and easy purchases of small or large amounts that maintain the benefits of impulsive purchasing and instant gratification. I think at the moment it is still too volatile to offer a sustainable alternative to DCB, but I truly believe it WILL come!
Personally, I believe a big shift for premium content will happen with blockchain and NFTs. This technology has the potential to basically end piracy and unauthorised / unlicensed distribution. There is business to be had around this now, so if any companies reading this are currently creating / managing NFT’s and are interested to partner with SFM re: content licensing, please contact me!
Which specific VAS verticals are you expecting to have a great year and why?
According to Reportlinker.com, the Global Mobile Value-added Services (VAS) Market is expected to grow by $723.25 bn during 2023-2027, so there is still much opportunity to be had.
I think VR and AR will probably be the two biggest growth areas for mobile in 2023. The global virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) technologies market is expected to reach $142.4 billion by 2023, up from $13.4 billion in 2018
Retailers and marketers will really benefit from augmented reality, and I believe 2023 will really start to see marketers and users begin to pay serious attention to augmented reality and the opportunities it offers for these sectors. For example, the ‘try before you buy’ options that are already out there such as furniture in situ, clothes on you, etc.
And as more digital influencers emerge as a trend, various industries will want to capitalize on their commercial potential. Augmenting virtual humans in realistic environments will assist brands in developing emotional connections with their customers.
Your words of wisdom: On a more personal level, what is the most inspiring piece of advice that has seen you through a life in business to this day and who gave that advice to you?
Without a doubt, the best bit of advice I have ever received was “if you’re presented with two options and don’t know which one to take, always take the option that allows you to do the other one later”.
It has always worked out for me and has helped to facilitate a truly amazing life, where I took so many of the opportunities offered to me to work and live abroad, start businesses and meet AMAZING people who have stayed in my life for 20, 30, 40 years, because I always knew I had a back-up option if it didn’t work out.
In the next 12 months what key technical developments or innovations do you feel will have the most positive impact on mCommerce (VAS / mobile payments / marketing)?
I think it’s getting to the point where we (By we, I mean I) can’t stick ‘our’ head in the sand anymore about just how big of an impact AI will have on our daily work lives, and much sooner than we think.
Even when it comes to content creation, blogs, articles, opinion pieces, we are seeing numerous writing tools spring up.
With images and art, we are seeing the amazing creations of AI with programs like Nightcafe and DALL-E 2
And when we look at videos, the consequences of deep fake videos and similar are both thrilling and scary to think about.
So, I have no doubt that it won’t be too long before AI starts permeating the world of mCommerce and for sure in both positive and negative ways as seems to be inherent in AI.