Friend or foe - can operators work with content providers?

The recent Arab Advisors conference in Jordan attracted key decision makers from across the Arab world. Here, high-profile panelists discuss whether telco operators should work with content providers for their services, or aggregate the content themselves.

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By  Administrator Published  August 28, 2008

The recent Arab Advisors conference in Jordan attracted key decision makers from across the Arab world. Here, high-profile panelists discuss whether telco operators should work with content providers for their services, or aggregate the content themselves.

Sam Barnet, COO, MBC:

I think that we should be friends. We have different capabilities, different skills and different assets. MBC as a free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster has no business in the platform market. Our focus is on content, on planning and on marketing - all of these can be useful for a telco. On content, we are trying to produce the best quality and most relevant content.

“It’s the coming together of players from completely different backgrounds. These players are used to having their own rules and their own logic for decades, and they are not sharing this with anybody else.” Osman Sultan

Are there any areas that we will compete on? I think there are two types of grey areas; in terms of aggregation, there is a temptation for telcos to think, ‘why don't I go direct to the content source?' The reason why is because of the branding and the advertising. As a FTA broadcaster, our money comes from advertising on the content itself.

Ross Cormack, CEO, Nawras:

I think it's interesting; these are two industries that have been dancing around each other globally and locally, but haven't really had great success. In the mobile industry, we have tended to feel we own customers - so we have an enormous jealousy of anyone addressing our customers through our platforms, and somehow we feel like we are losing control of that.

I think the future lies in recognising that customers have a choice and as long as we meet their needs, we will be able to bring these industries together in a way that is meaningful for customers. I think that one of the fundamental truths is the difference that we describe ourselves.

Mickael Ghossein, CEO, Jordan Telecom Group:

Content providers have to work hand in hand with operators, but have to innovate faster than operators. If they go at the same speed as operators, in the end the operators will decide to create their own content and business.

Peter Kaliaropoulos, CEO, Batelco:

I don't think the question is whether we are friends or foes, I think the right question should be how do we leverage that and respect our competencies to create an environment that doesn't exist today in the Middle East.

Do telcos take a big gamble in terms of content creation, packaging and production of content and basically try and market that? A small telco may try to create scale to catch up with the big guys so that we can leverage that customer base.

There is a question in terms of when: do we want to be leading edge and maybe risk a lot of investment, or do we really want to focus on taking content from a range of providers and deliver it as quickly as we can.

Osman Sultan, CEO, du:

The thing that is happening directly today is that there is a shift today. The last decade was under the umbrella of the promise of mobility for everyone. We have witnessed in the telecom world, business planners didn't expect the growth - and they were surprised by the increase that we see.

First of all, it's the coming together of players from completely different backgrounds. These players are used to having their own rules and their own logic for decades, and they are not sharing this with anybody else. We're moving from what I call the unshared certainties, to what we call the shared uncertainties.

The good news is that everyone feels like they have to share, but the bad news is that there are still a lot of question marks in what we have to share.

Telco operators lived for decades with the couple that is time and distance - you talk more, you pay more. These two parameters are now shifting radically; the monetising coming from voice is becoming more and more a question mark.

The second question is what the revenue sharing model is - because there is no business model that has clearly emerged. Friend or foes? We don't know yet, but most probably we will need to ally when the Facebook and the Googles emerge.

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