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Major Trends of the Russian Mobile Content Market (2006-2007)
Russian VAS market in 2006-2007
In parallel with the web universe, the Russian mobile world is developing rapidly. In 2006, the Russian value-added services (VAS) market developed steadily and continued to grow in the first quarter of 2007, reaching US$615 million, a 34% year-on-year increase, ComNews Research reported. Along with this, all three major players in the VAS market, operators, content providers (CPs) and aggregators, and subscribers are growing. Major Russian mobile operators adopted a more aggressive and assertive policy in the VAS market, launching new WAP portals and services and significantly reducing the number of content partners. The share of VAS in the overall revenue structure of operators reached 14% in the first quarter of 2007. With the launch of the first 3G networks in 2007-2008, Russian operators will only increase their content offering. Consolidation and stricter operator policies reduced the number of core content providers to 80-100 companies. Last year, CPs honed their skills in providing IVR and RBT services, demanding more video content, mobile games and community services.
Large CPs required providing better quality content, introducing new products and expanding the global market. Today, the winning formula of the Russian VAS market is ensuring the quality of content and diversifying products and services. IVR, SMS-based telelotteries, RBT and mobile games were among the most popular and successful content services. IVR services hit a revenue “Lady Luck” in 2006. In addition, continued growth in WAP penetration, mobile community services and user-generated content promised to be a positive year.
Otherwise, the emerging market has its own pinch of salt. Piracy is on the rise, while low content quality and SMS spam remained a significant obstacle to faster market development. Finally, high tariffs for WAP traffic and large revenue shares of operators are an additional burden on the development of the market.
What is the name of the game?
Pavel Roitberg, Head of MTS Products and Services, stated at the last Mobile Content Forum in Moscow in June 2007 that “we have changed the rules of the game.” While previously the largest Russian mobile operator MTS had 250-300 content partners, the analysis showed that 70% of the total revenue comes from 15 major partners, 20% from 20 CPs and 10% from 35 partners. As a result, MTS terminated contracts with ineffective partners, thus reducing their overall number of partners to about 100 companies. And this is almost the same situation with its rivals VimpelCom and MegaFon.
The low quality of content, as well as the abundance of fraudulent offers, reduced subscribers’ confidence in CPs and caused a sharp decline in content sales in 2005. Learning from the negative experience, major operators and content providers rushed to ensure a better quality of service. mobile content. For example, MTS created a content quality control program, making its partners directly responsible for content quality. At the same time, major Russian CPs created a network to control mobile content offers.
In 2006, sales of “heavy” and expensive content increased further as subscribers became more familiar with videos, games, software applications and full-length mp3 songs. Subscribers in major urban areas have increased purchasing power and are happy to pay more for “heavy” content. A noticeable trend in 2006 is the recovery of operators’ activities in the VAS niche. Several Russian mobile operators created and promoted their own portals , and participated in joint advertising with some of the largest content providers, in addition, operators introduced new billing methods, such as WAP-tariff: MT-fee and WAP-click.
WAP networks will continue to grow
iKS-Consulting estimated an average of 14 million monthly WAP users in Russia. According to the WAPStart survey, the average user is male (65%) in the age group 17-23 (60%). The highest growth rates of new subscribers are in the outermost regions. 71% of subscribers browse WAP via pre-installed mobile browsers. As of April 2006, there were over 80,000 WAP sites in Cyrillic. However, only about 20 WAP sites have a large daily audience.
Below is the TOP-5 WAP search for May 2007:
1. Porn – 42.00%
2. Free stuff – 29.49%
3. Software (ICQ, jimm, Opera, AV programs) – 7.23%
4. Gays – 2.75%
5. Mail.ru – 2.65%
MTS has been one of the most active mobile operators developing the VAS niche. It launched a new well-designed WAP portal and enhanced cooperation with content providers, facilitating a content aggregation market. VimpelCom (“BeeLine”), a direct competitor of MTS and Russia’s number 2 operator, launched successful Voice CPA and WAP CPA programs.
In 2006, major mobile content providers significantly diversified their services and continued to expand both into the neighboring CIS market and globally, such as INFON (Belarus), InformMobil (Tajikistan, Georgia and Kazakhstan), i-Free (Brazil and India) and PlayFon (South Africa , Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia). Other content providers such as A1 and Interactivi honed their skills in mobile marketing and intellectual branding services. For example, A1 actively improved the main FMCG brands in Russia and launched its new Java-based mobile services “Ogloblya”. Interactivi also reported that in 2006, the company worked with about 1 million subscribers in Russia and organized more than 60 successful advertising activities.
Changes were also made in promotion strategies. Many CPs acknowledged that the effectiveness of TV advertising is declining while ad placement prices are skyrocketing. As a result, many CPs shifted their advertising budgets to WAP and B2B partnership development. However, some CPs still rely on TV advertising, for example, Nikita Mobile was ranked 13th in the TOP-100 largest advertisers in 2006.
A bumpy road
Despite the continuous growth of the mobile content market, several challenges remained unsolved. One of the most common was the lack of creative content and services. Overall, the low quality of content and lack of education among subscribers significantly reduced the speed to market. For example, low-quality SMS-based TV contests undermined subscriber confidence: in many cases, subscribers received large amounts of SMS spam. In addition, many market analysts noted that the revenue share of mobile operators was too high and this led to an increase in the price of content. In addition, high WAP traffic costs increased the burden of increasingly expensive “heavy” content on mobile subscribers.
All about XXX: Mobile game sales are on the rise
Playmobile estimates that about 15 million copies of mobile games were sold in 2006. Many market analysts and gamers consider mobile games to be among the future revenue-generating giants. Adult and branded games generated the most profits and will remain popular in 2007, DDM said in its mobile gaming survey. Erotic games accounted for almost 50% of revenue, while branded games accounted for 20-40% of revenue, followed by casual games. Other potentially interesting products include multiplayer games, advergames and PC games.
TOP-3 mobile game developers:
TOP-3 Russian mobile game publishers:
Mobile content factory
TOP-5 Russian mobile game distributors:
Mobile Games – Key Sectors:
Source: DDM, #1 2007
Dynamic VAS quarter
In the first quarter of 2007, the market continued its dynamic growth. According to ComNews Research, the Russian VAS market reached US$615 million during this period, which is 3% more than in Q4 2006 and 34% more than a year earlier. The share of VAS in the overall revenue structure of operators reached 14%.
ComNews Research highlighted both the growing popularity of WAP services and the steady increase in prices for end users. Both parties blamed each other for the price increase: according to the operators, the problem lies in the inability of the CPs to produce meaningful and high-quality content, while the CPs believe that the revenue sharing of the operators is too high.
20% of operators’ revenues came from the VAS segment. The entire VAS revenue structure (gross) was as follows:
Basic services – 6% (US$36 million)
Content – 20% (US$124 million)
M-Internet – 20% (US$123 million)
Messaging – 54% ($332 million)
Source: ComNews Research
In the first quarter of 2007, mobile Internet brought in approximately US$123 million for operators, almost on par with mobile content revenues (US$124 million). The main trends of the 1st quarter of 2007 are practically similar to the 1st quarter of 2006. Custom services revenues are declining, while IVR and RBT remain in demand. Other fresh segments are community services and m-commerce. Thus, i-Free announced the successful launch of Jamango, a mobile community portal, in several global markets such as India and Singapore. Other trends include the customization of mobile phones in the production phase and the popularity of SMS-based competition technology.
However, content operators can no longer ignore a new trend: active promotion of the operators’ own portals. Their sales increased significantly, reaching almost 35%.
ComNews Research said the average CP and carrier revenue sharing structure in the first quarter of 2007 was 61% and 39%, respectively.
Mobile content revenue structure:
Customization – 34%
M-Commerce – 3%
Games – 14%
Infotainment – 16%
Chat/Community – 9%
M-marketing – 6%
Media projects – 18%
Non-portal sales dominated the portal, with a market share of 65% and 35% respectively.
What does the future look like? According to Playmobile, sales of branded and erotic games will continue to grow in 2007. This year, the company estimates that about 25 million copies will be sold. Multiplayer games and PC titles are on the rise. However, ComNews Research predicts that the mobile content market will grow by only 16% in 2007 and reach US$520 million. In order to maintain their revenue, CPs need to think about diversifying their business by moving towards corporate lines of business.
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