India’s top three incumbent carriers — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — are kicking their content act into top gear before Reliance Jio Infocomm’s launches 4G services commercially, said analysts. Brokerage CLSA said the focus of incumbent carriers on content offerings has intensified over the past few months ahead of Jio’s entry, especially since the Mukesh Ambani-led 4G entrant plans to position itself as a digital content firm to ring in a unique value proposition distinct from its peers.
Still, the prime services differentiator would continue to revolve around network experience, especially since content alone is not exclusive and can be replicated, the brokerage explained. Content though is a critical piece, which will help drive data traffic, especially as voice is largely commoditised, they said.Bharti Airtel already has its suite of apps that offer video and music content, while Vodafone and Idea Cellular too are in the process of launching content offerings, said CLSA.
Vodafone India, it said, had recently launched Vodafone Play, while No 3 carrier Idea had announced its foray into digital services with seven applications. Analysts at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BoFA-ML), in turn, said Idea Cellular like Jio is building an apps store with a focus on music, games, movies, TV and news, with an intention to drive data usage. An Idea Cellular spokeswoman said the company is working continuously to introduce its own apps and had inked partnerships with various service providers. “The technologies are getting integrated and the rollouts can be expected in FY17,” she said, but declined to name the app partners on confidentiality grounds.
No. 3 ranked Idea, however, clarified during an analyst meet that it would not directly build content but would act as an aggregator. The mobile carrier has recently signed pacts to offer music and movie content to drive up data usage. The company’s leadership expects strong video demand to drive 60% of data traffic by 2020. Going forward, it proposes to enhance VAS (value added services) offerings and introduce its own range of branded digital content services across multiple categories, including entertainment, information, communication, utilities and also offer a platform for third-parties to launch consumer-centric applications.
Second-largest carrier Vodafone India has recently set up a new vertical to generate accessible content for data customers. And is already delivering live TV channels, music on its platform along with movie content, courtesy agreements with app makers such as Hungama. At press time, Vodafone India declined to share details of its upcoming content offerings. A Bharti Airtel spokesman said Wynk is a carrier agnostic platform that is available to all mobile operators. “We support development of a vibrant and open content/app ecosystem that acts as a catalyst for mobile data adoption and will accordingly evaluate opportunities and platforms,” said the company spokesman in a written response to ET’s queries..
Brokerage IDFC said incumbent carriers would look to protect turf by increasing tie-ups for content, especially since Reliance Jio had etched a sizeable content ecosystem for itself. Analysts at IDFC expect online video content will be a key data consumption driver, and believe Indian content owners with a goldmine of library content, especially broadcasters, will immensely benefit from this new monetisation stream. “If wireless data prices turn attractive, on-the-go video consumption will increase, although the TV screen would continue to be the first screen for video consumption at home,” the brokerage said.
In fact, IDFC believes market leader Bharti Airtel, with an existing DTH business, may have missed the first-mover advantage in terms of offering live mobile TV to non-DTH 4G subscribers. It feels Jio could steal a march over incumbents since its key entertainment application, Jio Play, is reckoned as the “gold standard in so far as live TV streaming apps go with no video buffering or stuttering”.