Category Archives: Spuul

Disruption

Picked up on this article by Steve Blank over the weekend – such a good read.

I have worked at a few places in my life – startups, corporates, corporates in decline (Yahoo) and joint ventures masked as vehicles for corporates to try and stem declines (HOOQ). All of them share critical components but the corporates trying to deal with disruption can be very interesting. They don’t have it easy but they also continue to display the classic behaviors that got them to where they are in the first place. 

I notice in the local space that there is not a lot of investigative journalism into the big corporates around Singapore. I am guessing it is too touchy of a subject or maybe doesn’t drive page views. Hard to say.

Having just left HOOQ I would like to say a few things about it since I am asked many times why I went from startup land, Spuul, to pseudo startup land – HOOQ. 

Let me list a few reasons:

– I wanted the chance to get to know Singapore Inc. more closely.

– I wanted exposure to Sony and Warner.

– I was generally intrigued by the concept – 2 big studios work with local telco to try and do something cool in OTT.

– The plan had a solid model – the plan that is. The execution – not so much.

I went into the gig with my eyes wide open. I would learn, I would network and I would gain much needed experience on how to deal with a big corporate giant, actually three of them, trying to innovate. I would have a seat at the board meetings – huge learning opportunity. Boards can help a lot if done right.

Lastly, most importantly for me – I would try and see if I could buck the trend of a large corporate trying a new way to innovate but normally failing. The model had the right ingredients – a joint venture versus a subsidiary, good partners, a worthy business to go after and funds. Most startups don’t have these ingredients but then again most startups also don’t come with any baggage. Usually startups have a green field advantage and the right to make plans as they go whereas a joint venture is immediately plagued with too much funds, large parents to make happy and long range planning processes.

Frankly – it is too early to tell what will happen. Right now the market for OTT in emerging markets is early days. It is all about funding, posturing and moon shots. Obviously Netflix and Amazon will be the largest global players. As I keep saying to folks who constantly ask – who is the Amazon of India – Amazon. Just wait and see.

However folks tend to only thing big and forget that there are some healthy niche businesses out there – take Spuul for example. Doing well, but most folks only want to hear about big fund raising or other PR noteworthy milestones as examples of success.

For video we tend to think of Netflix or maybe YouTube. Right now the YouTube of emerging markets is YouTube. The Netflix for emerging markets – is also probably YouTube cause free and piracy are still the leader around the emerging markets. The idea of building out a robust, and profitable, paid OTT service for the emerging markets is still a work in progress.

HOOQ has a shot but iFlix appears to have the early lead. Will guys like Rakuten, Alibaba and HotStar emerge to try and go big? Don’t know yet. Will Netflix and Amazon slowly take over? Possibly. Will Google eventually get it right around the globe when it comes to premium content? I think not likely. Apple – well, they just seem to suck at emerging markets when it comes to payment models so I am not hopeful.

The race is on. I will continue to armchair quarterback it and share more insights as I go.

Updated :: More questions than answers on the facebook/liverail acquisition

Now we have Facebook actually shutting LiveRail down. This is what I ultimately expected would happen. Tough industry…

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So what I originally feared has happened :: http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/07/facebook-liverail-ad-serving/

Quite a blow to some folks…

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Been waiting to see if there was any proper analysis written dissecting the Facebook acquisition of liverail – so far I haven’t seen much.

There is some good notes over at statechery – http://stratechery.com/2014/daily-update-microsoft-phone-wearables-office-facebook-acquires-liverail-google-right-censor/. But I think this is for subscribers only:

Small excerpt:

This is another very smart and rather obvious acquisition for Facebook: they have the best user data, while video ads are the fastest-growing and most lucrative (on a per-ad basis) digital ad units. LiveRail ties the two together in a very nice, and almost certainly a very profitable bow.

I subscribe to the daily update and the comments part of stratechery – https://stratechery.com/membership/. I don’t comment much but I read all the updates and enjoy them.

So far the general digest of the deal is video is booming and video ads will boom and therefor Facebook should get in on the action. Rumor has it that a huge amount of youtube referral traffic is from Facebook but that Facebook doesn’t capitalize on it well. I am not sure this helps that issue much unless Facebook intends to build a proper video product and keep that action in the stream. If that were the plan then Facebook needs video advertising kit and liverail would obviously be a great fit.

What I am not seeing many people talk about is what happens to the customer centric side of or the b2b/b2b2c side of the liverail business under Facebook? I have no previous experience of integrating a product that one uses to build a consumer product that then is acquired by Facebook. We are not talking about things like Instagram but what liverail is for most people is something they don’t see. Consumer facing products like Spuul, for example, use liverail to power our video advertising. Something that really has nothing to do with Facebook or their goals. So I am curious to see what will eventually happen here. One thought is liverail gets better and due to the money, vision of Facebook they turn the platform into a full-scale offering to compete with google in the video ad space(doubleclick/adx). This would be the vision of Facebook starting to rival google in all things advertising and is not anchored to the Facebook product. Sure maybe user data and such helps here but the idea is I don’t need Facebook when I use liverail but that the product gets better at targeting/profile when Facebook is integrated. This might be cool.

The other idea, not the one I am hoping for, is that liverail starts to inwardly focus on being a tool for Facebook advertisers and becomes less and less the ecosystem play to rival google. I think one has to watch the technology or product direction some to see what happens. For example liverail missed the instream video ad play and is now playing catch up. Google acquired a company to solve this problem cause google is in it to win it. Liverail might also be able to win it with the Facebook backing.

A lot of companies also use liverail to build their own SSP’s in certain regions since this is a niche play but most folks don’t want to recreate the core ad plumbing. Time will tell if Facebook continues to support this use case of liverail.

For now I don’t know how to read the tea leafs here. Liverail must have wanted the exit versus going public. Good for them but now we are down one piece of independent plumbing used to make video ecosystems. This could be bad or possibly under the Facebook umbrella it actually gets more powerful.

Watching and waiting…

Thoughts on OTT

Update to the post::

I said as much in my list below – get ready for the VPN to stop working when it comes to gaming Netflix content libraries.

First, let me start off with a shameless plug for a podcast I was a guest of:

Now that we got that out of the way we can continue on. Also – my shameless plus is so we make this AA’s #1 podcast to ensure I get invited back. šŸ˜‰

Let me disclose that I work at hooq.tv and used to work at spuul.com . I do have some sense of this world I am talking about. I don’t have a crystal ball and I also think that in the emerging markets it will take years to declare a winner. Years I say!

That being said I think it is important to note some things for the pedestrians:

    – In many markets, say Taxis or car booking services, I can agree with the winner take all or winner take most, especially in the USA or China. FYI Om covered this topic well here :: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/in-silicon-valley-now-its-almost-always-winner-takes-all. However in large regional area or emerging markets I am not sure if it is true and it also has to be that pricing almost equalizes. In the case of this specific subject if we are talking about Netflix dominating in India I struggle to see how a company that charges 3x its emerging markets brethren can own the market. Maybe it will own the high end but how would it own the market that does not pay that much for entertainment?

    – Let no one kid you. None of these players are currently fighting over a paid customer base – we are all fighting to convert a pirate over to a paying subscriber. That will take years and there are plenty of pirates to share at this moment.

    – Local content is a big deal and no one player owns it all nor can sell it all to one OTT player. Also many of the local content players are building or have built their own OTT services.

    – There can never be just one service for all. Take me for example. I share my mom’s Netflix account but I buy my own HBO account. I value HBO way more than Netflix and nothing they did last week changed that equation for me.

    – Payment models in the emerging markets are hard. For Netflix it very well could be that the only customer they care about has a credit card. That still lives 100’s of millions of customers for companies like HOOQ who think there are others way to take money from users.

    – Not only are payment models hard but so are subscription types. Is a monthly recurring subscription going to work in the emerging markets? For some folks it might. For others maybe weekly subscriptions is better? Maybe a subscription tied to a data balance makes more sense. No one knows yet.

    – Content rights are super hard. I love seeing all the people baffled as to why they log into Netflix Singapore and it doesn’t look like the USA catalog. Netflix didn’t buy all the rights for Singapore because they know it is a small market. It may not be worth it and chances are some of it is not available. Also, Netflix being a capitalist, sold some of their shows to services in Singapore already so they can’t just take it back. Over time as they grow they will fix this but again Netflix could never own everything you want to see.

    – As OTT takes off some of the big players will try to work around Netflix and other services to go direct. One good read on this :: http://bgr.com/2015/11/05/netflix-streaming-time-warner/

    – The all powerful VPN. Currently lots of folks are signing up for Netflix Singapore and then using a VPN or anonymous IP to get the USA catalog. All good but keep in mind they way content rights work. They are bought and sold for a region – they are not tied to what credit card you use. Lots of folks talk about Apple TV or iTunes as the model where I can use my use a credit card to buy a show. And I can watch it in Singapore but note I am paying US prices so the content guys don’t care. Apple is not a subscription service and notice it they planned on doing this with TV and backed down. Netflix is getting away with murder right now. Pay Singapore prices but watch a USA catalog. At some point the content owners may ask Netflix to enforce geo specific rule or to simply not support VPN usage. Most content owners ask companies like HOOQ to try to block VPN’s or similar tools. As global content streaming takes off, I expect this to be an ongoing discussion.

    – To summarize I would like to say this is going to take time to all play out. As I like to remind my team regularly – it’s a marathon – not a sprint.

I’ll add to this is if I think I missed something.

VOD – here come Asia!

We all know VOD is big. Just check Netflix for reference. I pretty much never watch actual TV or cable – except for the news.

Normally I am watching HOOQ, HBO Now, or Netflix. Plus a lot of iTunes video.

Given all that it is no wonder that global VOD growth is gonna keep growing.

What is exciting is the Asia numbers:

The VOD market in Asia Pacific Excluding Japan (APEJ) is expanding at a robust pace and by 2020, the market is expected to reach $80.5 billion.

How do you like them apples?

Good times.

India!

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25 years ago I first arrived in India.

I have been coming here ever since I moved to Hong Kong in 1999 – then with BEA Systems, actually Weblogic. Then when I moved to Singapore working for Yahoo I would hit India about every other month.

Then with Spuul I would hit Mumbai from time to time but now I am in Delhi with HOOQ. Delhi is one of the centers for all the Telcos. BizDev time.

I amazes me how much, just like me, stuff has changed. The place is busier than ever. I was in a lift yesterday full of ZTE engineers selling stuff to an India telco. Globalization in full effect. Love it.

Mobile is HUGE here. Just HUGE. The opportunities are massive.

Get in there.