Netflix has scored a major partnership with telecom giant SoftBank in preparation of its impending entry into the Japanese market. With this partnership, SoftBank will offer Netflix subscription via the stores and digital outlets it owns, with the monthly fee conveniently included in its mobile carrier bill. Moreover, Netflix’s mobile app will be pre-installed on SoftBank phones, which is a noteworthy move for the OTT content service as it starts to pay attention to mobile streaming.
What Brands Should Do
For brands seeking global expansion, partnering up with a local industry leader is often a good approach. Last year, Uber partnered with Chinese search giant Baidu to better compete with the local ride-hailing apps. In addition, we are seeing more and more digital content companies and telecom companies teaming up for expanding reach, reducing payment friction, and better monetization opportunities, such as Hulu’s recent partnerships with Cablevision and AT&T. And brands of all types need to be mindful of the changing media landscape and adjust media strategy accordingly.
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Vistar, a digital out-of-home startup, wants to use their data to map of consumer behavior in the real world. Through a partnership with AirSage — one of few startups that have negotiated deals with carriers for this data — Vistar has developed a system which it says can allow marketers to analyze where nearly 110 million of consumers live, work and shop in an anonymized and privacy-sensitive way.
The new data product is meant to supplement the core digital out-of-home business. But the move also comes as the company launches its own mobile advertising demand-side network, and looks to find a way to compete in an increasingly crowded mobile advertising industry.
Last week, Apple’s announcement that they would enable WiFi-based calls in iOS 8 sparked interest, but people have been enjoying free phone calls by using various OTT services for years. However, the market is currently undergoing a major shake-up, as telecom companies enter the market previously dominated by third-party VoIP apps.
Released back in 2003, Skype was among the earliest third-party apps to support Voice Over IP (VoIP) service. Although reasonably priced, the charges for calling landlines and mobile phones limited the scale of Skype’s VoIP usage, leaving the door open for other mobile apps like Tango and Viber to complete with better mobile user experiences and lower pricing. And earlier this year, a Singapore-based startup introduced Nanu, an app that supports free calls to non-Nanu users by playing a short ad over the connecting ringtone. Google also recently updated its Hangouts app to add Google Voice integration, which allows users to dial and receive VoIP calls.
The Telecom Companies
With the popularization of smartphones and high-speed mobile data connectivity, the movement towards OTT communication has reached a tipping point. Verizon and T-Mobile started with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) that allows carrying phone calls over the high-speed LTE networks. Apple’s announcement prompted major carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T to announce upcoming WiFi calling services soon after. And unlike VoIP that most third-party apps use, WiFi calling could jump from the carrier network to Wi-Fi seamlessly.
The Dark Horse
At this point, mobile carriers aren’t the only ones jumping on the OTT calling wagon— WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, is reportedly set to add Internet-based voice calls soon. And with over 600 million monthly active users, it might just become one of the major players in the increasingly saturated OTT calling market.
Carriers AT&T and Verizon are sitting on some of the most valuable consumer data available so it’s not surprising their creating their own marketing services. AT&T’s offering, called AT&T Alerts will deliver location-based SMS offers while Verizon is leveraging location, demographics and browsing history to deliver personalized deals. Both products require users to opt-in, given the sensitive user data and recent privacy concerns like the Carrier IQ incident.