Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo has announced that it will offer animated content to mobile customers in Europe and South America through Buongiorno, the Italy-based mobile content company it acquired last summer. Docomo targets overseas content distribution sales of JP ¥200 billion (US $2.1 billion) in fiscal 2015, a 20-fold increase from 2011. The operator offers around 600 anime titles in Japan, some of which will be translated for sale abroad.
Docomo’s move is a savvy one, and it serves as another good example for MNOs that want to make sure they offer their customers something more than basic access to products and services from unrelated entities. In fact, we believe MNOs should think of themselves as analogous to cable operators. The latter have gone far beyond their original role as mere conduits for content from others. By investing in entertainment programming, they are now essentially entertainment providers in their own right, reaping the benefits of being content owners. We feel this is a model that mobile operators can and should emulate. Considering the myriad of ways in which consumers use their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices for viewing entertainment, it is pretty clear that MNOs are already in the entertainment business. They might as well take the next step which involves producing content instead of just distributing it on behalf of others.
The actual economics of producing entertainment content, which can then be distributed by the operator to its subscribers, is compelling. Not only can the operator use such first-run entertainment programming to differentiate itself from the competition, it could also sell it to MNOs and MVNOs in other countries and regions with which it is not in direct competition. It is simply a fantastic distribution model. A wildly popular program could even be syndicated to tradition entertainment outlets, such as broadcast TV and cable.
And, while coming up with hits is never easy, the creation of entertainment content, be it animated or live action, can be outsourced to any of a large number of for-hire production companies around the world that would thirst for such business. As a result, the actual funding required to produce entertainment content is relatively small, given the competition to produce it.
In summary, mobile operators control not just a voice and data network, but an entertainment one, as well, the value of which could be substantial. While some may think becoming an entertainment provider is “a bridge too far” for an MNO, we respectfully disagree.