It happened with roaming partners and it will happen with OTT partners. In the early days, partnerships were put in place on a case by case basis. Spreadsheets were widely used. Then, when things got a little more complicated and the number of partners began to increase, vendor relationships were called in and their expertise was engaged to keep the spreadsheet usable. Finally, vendors developed partner management systems and operators bought them.
Now that we have got beyond the discussions as to whether OTT players are friend or foe (both, like most things in communications) our attention must also shift to ensure that systems are in place that can not only cope with the work load but also maximise the opportunity.
And that opportunity, according to a new paper commissioned by AsiaInfo is worth an extra €2.2 billion gross profit over the next three years – if a collaboration platform is in place. Even if it is not, then the opportunity is still substantial at €160 million. And this is the opportunity for Western European operators alone.
The key to success (and indeed success or failure for smaller operators) is in generating small incremental revenues from a larger number of partnerships. And a collaboration platform will be key in delivering two things.
A platform will allow operators to act and react quickly – by designing and launching new products and services quickly. And by reducing the costs of integration – a challenge often cited when operators are asked about the challenges of offering sponsored data, in any of its forms (zero rated Facebook or toll-free Big Brand sites).
The Northstream paper focuses on two examples of partnership with OTT players – service bundling and sponsored data. Examples of each are already emerging, with Vodafone UK offering free Sky Sports and AT&T offering sponsored data. And such examples will continue to emerge. The point, though, is that the €2.2 billion opportunity is only there if operators take the ‘less from more’ approach and do not try to make the business case for partnerships from just a couple of large OTT players.
The Northstream paper comes at an important moment for operators. They know that collaboration with OTT players is now one of their main opportunities. They know that it is what they will use their real-time systems for in two years’ time. But the business case is now all important and this paper delivers some key tools, examples and insights into the collaboration opportunity. They must now get beyond any thought that partnerships are too difficult to work.
When it comes to the decision to go ‘platform’ or ‘non platform’, as with most things in business, those that can do it better, faster and/or cheaper will have the upper hand.