www.WirelessFederation.com/news: Mobile Music has become the largest contributor to Value Added Services Revenue of the mobile operators in India. In a recent announcement, India’s largest telecom operator by subscribers’ number, Bharti Airtel has claimed its Music Bhartiâ€ to be the largest music company in India ahead of another giant of the music industry, Saregama. After this announcement by Deputy CEO Sanjay Kapoor, it becomes easy to understand why Bharti Airtel decided to set up separate divisions for Mobile Entertainment and Mobile Commerce.
Meanwhile, there are doubts regarding the top slot claimed by Bharti after beating Saregama. Saregama has still not revealed its financial results for 2008-09 whereas Airtel has generated Rs. 708 crores from music distribution in 2008-09 (FY09). But having a glance of the financial results of the two companies in the year 2007-08, Bharti Airtel emerges as a undisputed king by generating Rs. 458.4 crores in FY08 while Saregama earned 143.7 crore.
Though music is not produced by Airtel, it contributes to the revenue of the company through distribution via caller ringback tones, mobile radio and music on demand. Earnings from SMS service has already being superseded by the money generated by music. Rs. 481.3 crores of Airtel’s Value Added Services (VAS) revenues in Q4 was not from SMS but from this non-SMS component.
Airtel collects and sells music from many music publishers like Saregama, T-Series, Yash Raj Films, UTV, Rajshri Films, and several publishers from SIMCA and it has not yet decided to enter into the field of music publishing.
The latest cover story of India’s top business magazine Business World is on Mobile VAS. Needless to say that these are boom times for the Indian mobile VAS industry. Rediff has syndicated the story and its a must read. Have captured some salient points.
The article cites a Lehman Brothers report which puts the size of the industry at Rs 2300 crores. This includes texting and is not just operator share. By 2010, the report estimates mobile data to be a $10-billion (Rs 43,000-crore) market in India. The report says that EBITDA from data revenue could go up to 65%, compared to 30% or so from voice.
To put things into perspective, India has 108 million homes with TV, 90 million mobile users and 7.5 million Internet subscribers.
So whats all this fuss about mobile entertainment.
Indian Idol got more than 55 million votes via SMS between Nov 04 to Mar 05. At Rs 3 per SMS, that is Rs 16.5 crore (Rs 165 million). The telecom companies made Rs 11.5 crore (Rs 115 million), and Sony about Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million).
Radio Mirchi gets 40,000-45,000 SMSes a day.
Indian music industry got about Rs 140 crore (Rs 1.40 billion) or 20% of its legitimate revenues from mobile music in 2005.
Shridhar Subramaniam, MD, Sony-BMG says a hit film can generate Rs 1-1.2 crore – about 5% of an album’s sale on mobile revenues. Its big mobile hit of the year is Rang De Basanti.
Saregama makes half its money on ringtones through its catalogue. It sells nothing but ringtones. With new releases, we have the rights to images and wallpapersâ€, says Sarkar.
The big media firms â€” Star, Sony and BCCL, among others â€” have set up entire divisions for mobile entertainment.
Star CEO Peter Mukerjea has maintained that mobile telephony should eventually bring in 30% of the company’s revenues. And Sony will set up its own backend for digital downloads this year. Reliance’s 18 million subscribers, more than 10 million use data regularly. Roughly half its data revenues comes from film-related content.
At the end of December 2005 R World, its mobile portal had 5.3 million visitors.
About 32% of the portal’s revenues came from ringtones and 20% from films.
Games and cricket form a respectable 8-9 per cent each.
What worked for Mobile VAS in India.
Most Indians use the mass transport system like the Japanese and unlike the Americans who drive cars to work.
Customers are cool with paying for information on the mobile unlike the Internet.
Mobile phone is bridging the digital divide (that the Internet was supposed to)
in smaller towns and villages for entertainment and information.
India has collecting societies – the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). According to rates prescribed by PPL, anywhere between 25-40% comes back to music firms.
The media companies are not the ones to be left behind.
For media buying and planning firms such as Group M, all the work with mobile phones is brand centric,â€ says Tushar Vyas, its national director (interaction).
That means that if Fa’s creative and media plan demands that there should be a mobile play, say, a contest, poll or plain branding, then Group M will look at content or partnerships where it can promote Fa on the mobile phone.
Advertisers are trying their best to get their two bits in. So, Thums Up has a game it designed with Mobile2Win, Castrol has its own ringtone (and 100,000 people actually downloaded it), and Reliance offers bill payment on R World, railway bookings, and even exam results.
Can any article on mobile entertainment be complete without a mention of the ongoing feud between the operators and aggregators on revenue shares.
Currently, the Indian market is split roughly at 60:30:10 between mobile operators, media companies and aggregators. Mobile operators argue that they make the investment and control the consumer, so they should keep a lion’s share of the mobile data pie.
Prasad of Reliance says that internationally, operators pay revenue share only on the basis of actual downloads. In India, the figure on which this is calculated includes network usage and subscription fee and, therefore, the percentage that comes back to the operator has to be larger.
Ultimately, in a fragmented, oversupplied content market, it should be easy to get good stuff if you have a sense of what will work and what won’t. Media companies have a nose for it, mobile companies don’t.
So, as the need for differentiated content, especially with TV, songs, news and more audio-visual content becoming important, expect much more poaching from programming departments of TV channels, and lots and lots of loose alliances.