Supporting mobile video business


This paper examines a range of video services mobile operators can provide in a sustainable fashion and how.

1. Introduction

Some time ago mobile operators could not keep up with the demand of billions of people eager to communicate from anywhere to anyone anytime in speech and text. Now in many countries there are more SIMs than humans and internet channels many communication forms: free services such as Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube and subscription services such as Spotify and Netflix. No surprise that consumers judge mobile operators on the size and cost of the data plans they offer.

Fortunately there is still room for mobile operators to prove their worth. With new technology – 4G or the coming 5G – mobile operators can offer higher bitrate in their cells, a boon for video services. So there is hope that the future of mobile operators is not just to sell more GBytes per month at less.

This paper finds that an Online Video Service Platform (OVSP) allows mobile operators to achieve this goal. With an OVSP a mobile operator can create video services and mobile video formats, and enliven communities. Most importantly an OVSP allows a mobile operator to draw the most out of its main asset: its subscribers.

Figure 1 shows how an OVSP lets a mobile operator can offer mutually beneficial business opportunities to external parties by allowing access to its subscribers through services created and offered by the OVSP.

Figure 1 – OVSP as a tool for doing business with partners

This is clearly not a new figure. What is new is that it is applied to video services and that a way to exploit it is given along the lines described in the next chapters.

2. Video distribution options

The figure below depicts a mobile operator’s OVSP and the type of users that can potentially be served – some business partners and some subscribers:

  1. Mobile operator and its subscribers
  2. Content providers/distributors and subscribers
  3. Enterprises
  4. Communities

1. Operator distributes content

The OVSP should obviously support the case in which a mobile operator offers video content as IPTV or OTT.

2. Operator hosts content providers

In this case a mobile operator offers content providers access to its subscribers, mobile payment systems, localisation services etc. Therefore it can offer content providers video distribution enhancing services running on its IT infrastructure and integrated with its assets .

A mobile operator can also offer services to companies who want to enhance their web presence with a web TV showing corporate content and live events, or in support to marketing campaigns, contests etc. A mobile operator hosts the companies’ web TVs on its IT infrastructure and sells the services supporting the companies’ web TVs bundled with internet access.

3. Operator provides mobile video formats

Through their programs, broadcasters can establish a good – albeit rather anonymous – connection with their viewers. Broadcasters try hard to get their viewers involved in their programs – reality shows, investigations, quizzes and more – but they have a hard task because the broadcasting channel is eminently one way. Occasionally broadcasters create back channels for specific programs but many of their viewers is lost in the process.

The relationship of mobile operators with their subscribers can be much more direct than broadcasters’ with their viewers because consumers have an intimate relationship with their devices connected to the mobile operator’s network, which often becomes an extensions of their selves. A mobile operator is thus in the ideal position to talk one-to-one to its subscribers and can do better than broadcasters.

I am not suggesting that mobile operators should start streaming interactive versions of Master Chef or beauty and quizz contests on their networks any time soon. I suggest instead to get inspiration from the notion of “format” of the broadcasting world and apply it to the mobile context. Let’s call the result “mobile video format”.

A “mobile video format” should be designed by the mobile operator or commissioned to a creative assisted by its experts, and involve different players that seek to reach a goal that requires intensive and qualified use of its infrastructure assets.

Here are some example use cases. These are not particularly recommended, but used to describe how business partners may have controlled access to the mobile operator’s subscribers in the context of a well defined mobile video format.

Use case #1: Mobile operator hosts service providers who create TV-like (scheduled) programs with commercials that are accessible by mobile subscribers, e.g. without consuming their data plans.

Who gains

  • Mobile subscribers: access to high quality programs
  • Service providers: gain from mobile subscribers’ CPM
  • Mobile operator: get revenues from service providers (different business models), retains mobile subscriber.

The figure below shows how an OVSP can support this use case.

Publishers creating TV-like programs use content is stored in the OVSP, live events streamed through the OVSP and ads from advertisers also stored in the OVSP. The OVSP provides the tools to create such TV-like programs and the platform checks that content is used as licensed. Subscribers watch TV-like programs and the OVSP monitors all events and provides Costs Per Mil (CPM) information so that publishers can be accurately paid by and Analytics information provided to Advertisers. Mobile operator’s gains depend on the business models applied.

Use case #2: Mobile operator hosts content providers who offer for free interactive videos containing product placements with links to related content (e.g. video containing a location linked to a video of a travel package) that a mobile subscriber may buy following the link.

Who gains:

  • Mobile subscribers: get access to high quality programs with bargain opportunities
  • Content providers: gain from mobile subscribers’ purchases (different business models)
  • Mobile operator: get revenues from content providers (different business models), mobile subscriber retention.

The figure below shows how an OVSP can support this use case.

In this use case different content functionalities (e.g. creation of link to travel package, in the example used) are activated. The additional difference is that effecting a purchase may trigger another sharing of revenues.

Use case #3: Mobile operator hosts audio content provider who allows mobile subscribers to create and posts to their web pages playlists that other mobile subscribers can play.

Who gains

  • Mobile subscriber: (active) get famous, share in revenues
  • Mobile subscriber: (passive): access to community of playlist creators
  • Content provider: get access to new customers
  • Mobile operator: gain from payments (different business models).

The figure below shows how an OVSP can support this use case.

The platform provides the tools to create playlists. Analytics is used to drive payments to the different actors depending on their business relationships. The figure includes a possible participation of an advertiser posting ads to active subscribers’ web pages.

4. Operator hosts communities

Media and video in particular are very effective means to create communities. By communities I do not intend like YouTube, but environments where subscribers can post videos, stream live events, chat, create interactive content, stream TV-like programs, trade content and more, possibly as an extension of the notion of “mobile formats” introduced before.

3. Option analysis

Option 1 “Operator distributes content” looks like the easiest way to get into the video distribution business. Content publishing, however, is a special business characterised by its high stakes, talents trained in the business and its own special rules.

The business is learning/has already learned how to handle the technologies that enable content distribution:

  • Content providers like Disney are planning to stream their content over the top (OTT) dropping intermediaries.
  • Broadcasters are deploying video distribution services with their own content.
  • Global distributors such as Netflix and Amazon Prime even produce part of the content they distribute and have ambitious plans to reach every corner of the planet with their services.

Option 2 “Operator hosts content providers” is a typical B2B case. Operators and content provider or distributors each do do what they know best.

One caveat is that the ICT infrastructure needed to support the two options are different because the requirements are different. In some cases content providers or distributors want to operate in a silo, in some others there is a degree of osmosis between content providers/distributors, in other cases mobile operators may wish to retain some content distribution role possibly in synergy with some of those operating on their platform.

Therefore a video distribution platform designed for Option 1 cannot be easily be extended to support Option 2.

Option 3 “Operator provides mobile video formats” looks exciting but there are important elements to be considered. Like in broadcast formats, there is no guarantee that what looks like a smart mobile format today will be a success tomorrow, the cost of implementing a mobile format from scratch every time is high, and new mobile formats must be connected with the “user experience” data coming from previously deployed mobile video formats.

Option 4 “Operator hosts communities” offers food for thought. Of course a completely “open” service will be very attractive to subscribers who will come in droves but it entails “moderation” costs. It would make sense to start from “reliable” communities and extend the scope of the community/ies gradually.

4. Requirements and solution

With many video distribution options it is obviously difficult to make a decision as to which to choose now. One could start with option 1 but it entails significant investments in content. Option 2 is less adventurous but also less rich in expectations. Options 3 and 4 promise a lot but the results are not here and now.

The best solution would be a video distribution platform that is flexible enough to follow a mobile operator who moves along the different options considered above. A platform with the following main features would do the job:

  • Multitenancy – to enable different users to access functionalities of the backend with different rights
  • Platform-wide DRM – to enable content rights management to different users of the platform
  • Multi-user payments – to enable payments involving more than one payee
  • API – to enable creation of new services and their front-ends
  • Micro-services – to enable addition of new and upgrade of existing back-end functionalities.

A platform with these features exists and is called WimTV. It is a white label solution that natively runs on the cloud, but can also be installed in and interfaced with a mobile operator’s IT/cloud infrastructure.

In the following chapter we demonstrate that WimTV can support all the 4 options considered above because there is an actually deployed service that implements the most challenging Option 4 “Operator hosts communities”.

5. Community services with WimTV

At WimLabs has deployed a WimTV instance that implements Option 4 as depicted in the figure below. This  hosts a community of some 8,000 professional registered users doing business on the platform and distributing content to a large number of possibly unregistered consumers.

To restart animation press crtl-R/cmd-R

Let’s walk through the figure taking into account that the numbers in the bulleted list correspond to the numbers in the figure:

  1. To make good use of his videos John uses the WimBox service to upload his videos to WimTV
  2. John publishes his videos with the WimVod service setting the licence used in the service
  3. Sara watches John’s videos according to the licence set by John (creative commons or copyright free or copyright pay). In the last case Sara uses the platform payment system
  4. John selects some of his videos in WimBox and offers them as subscriptions with the WimBundle service
  5. Sara selects a subscription, pays the amount set by John and watches the videos in the subscription for the duration set by John
  6. John wants to presents his company on the web. He knows the power of video on the web – immediacy – but also its weakness – viewers get tired soon. So he uses WimBridge to create a navigable video
  7. Sara enjoys navigating the video. She concentrates on the parts that are more interesting to her and shares the relevant portions on her social network
  8. John uses the WimLive service to create and publish live events by setting start time, duration and, possibly, price. When the event is over John finds the video in his WimBox for possible reuse
  9. Sara sees the event published on the WimTV live event page. She watches the event on her mobile phone, possibly after paying for the event on the platform payment system
  10. John likes WimTV’s TV-like programs running on his web site because they provide opportunities for serendipitous encounters. He uses the WimCast service to stream scheduled services made up of videos and live events
  11. Sara watches John’s program on her tablet. She feels as if she were watching television
  12. John has some videos that he wishes to monetise. So he uses the WimTrade service to sell his videos to others. He posts his videos on WimTrade with a licence specifying duration, location (on WimTV or downloadable) and remuneration (lump sum, fixed amount for each view, percentage on each view).
  13. When Jim needs a video he goes to WimTrade, pays using the platform payment system and uses the video as per licence. WimTV takes care that John is remunerated for all uses of his licensed video as stipulated in the licence.

6. Conclusions

This paper has identified 4 possible option the allow mobile operators to enhance their role with video services. To keep its options open, a mobile operator should use a solution that can flexibly handle all options so that it can plan and execute more advanced business models as the need appears.

One such solution exists and is called WimTV, a white label solution that natively runs on the cloud, but can also be installed in and interfaced with a mobile operator’s IT/cloud infrastructure.

The most challenging Option 4 has been implemented in the WimTV instance at to demonstrate the potential and to test the platform while it evolves. This, however, should not be taken to imply that this is the only effective use of the platform.

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