25 November 2009

Mobile Entertainment Forum expands to Latin America with launch in Brazil

  • Ron Czerny to serve as Acting Chair & Filipe Roup Rosa joins as General Manager for MEF LATAM
  • MEF LATAM to focus on issues of double-taxation and regulation
  • 26 Founding Members announced - Founding membership open to LATAM companies until January 31, 2010 & MEF Board LATAM Elections to take place in February 2010
Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), the global trade association of the mobile media industry, has announced the launch of its Latin America chapter (MEF LATAM) with an inaugural meeting in Sao Paulo that attracted over 100 companies across the value-chain last week. MEF LATAM’s mission will be to foster an environment conducive to driving mobile entertainment development across the region, by creating dialogue between the industry and regulators, as well as driving initiatives that promote best practices and sustainable business solutions.

MEF LATAM has already attracted 26 major companies as founding members, including 2ergo, Binbit, Blink, Boltcel, Buongiorno, Comfone, cVidya, Dada, Flycell, Fox Mobile Distribution, Getjar, Impact Mobile, KPMG, Masurlaw, NeoMobile, Nokia , Omnifone, PlayPhone , RIM , Silverstreet , Sony Music, Sony Pictures, SPB Software, Telefonica, TIM and Zed.

Ron Czerny, Acting Chair of MEF LATAM and CEO of Playphone said: “MEF provides a strong vehicle for the mobile entertainment industry as a whole to represent its interests through one coherent voice. The quality of the founding members is a great achievement for MEF LATAM which will serve as a source of strength for achieving solutions and clear results in the region.” During the meeting, Filipe Roup Rosa was announced as General Manager, MEF LATAM. He is based in Sao Paulo which will serve as the regional headquarters. Rosa highlighted that “the growth of mobile media in Latin America is exponential, but that speed has created gaps in regulation. MEF’s intention is to act strongly to address regulatory issues and tackle problems such as the tax burden on our industry with effective measures. We will also act quickly to elect the first regional board of MEF LATAM and implement the action plan set out by members.”

“MEF's international expertise in working with regulators, identifying sustainable business models and accelerating market entry opportunities will foster the growth of the industry and deliver competitive advantage to our members. These tools have made MEF successful worldwide and will form the core aspects of our work in LATAM."

Rimma Perelmuter, MEF Executive Director

“Our goal is to foster collaboration between local regulators and our members. Underpinning the phenomenal growth in Brazil and the future success of the mobile entertainment industry is consumer trust in mobile media. Growth comes from having regulatory frameworks or Codes that are transparent, consistent in their application and proportionate to the harm they are trying to prevent.”

Suhail Bhat, MEF Policy and Initiatives Director

LATAM-MEF Founding Members
The MEF-LATAM group founding are: 2ergo, Binbit, Blink, Boltcel, Buongiorno, Comfone, cVidya, Dada, Flycell, Fox Mobile Distribution, Getjar, Impact Mobile, KPMG, Masurlaw, NeoMobile, Nokia , Omnifone, PlayPhone , RIM , Silverstreet , Sony Music, Sony Pictures, SPB Software, Telefonica, TIM and Zed.

Founding member status open until January 31, 2010.

Companies interested in becoming members should contact Filipe@m-e-f.org

19 November 2009

MEF responds to EU Consumer Commission crack down on miss-selling of mobile services

Suhail Bhat, Policy & Initiatives Director, MEF, comments on the news that the EU Consumer Commission has cracked down on websites miss-selling ringtones and other mobile services:

“Since the original notification of the investigation last year, MEF has been working closely with its members to resolve the concerns expressed by the EU’s Consumer Commission as we recognise the importance of transparency and the need to maintain and increase consumer trust in mobile services.

In May 2009, we established an EMEA regulatory committee comprising of 30 companies spanning the entire mobile value chain to examine some of these issues, and have since done the same in South East Asia. Today, PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, announced a 62% decrease in complaints about mobile phone-paid services (between July 2008 and October 2009), clearly showing that when regulators and the mobile industry work together, services can operate in a compliant manner to the benefit of all. This is mirrored by the Consumers and Convergence study recently undertaken by KPMG in association with MEF, which showed that consumer satisfaction with mobile music services had grown globally from 26% in 2007 to 66% in 2009.

We would welcome discussion with the EU on the regulation of mobile services. The mobile entertainment industry is valued at $32 billion globally, but the regulations for the same content vary tremendously and are applied inconsistently in different Member States. In many cases, there are multiple regulators with remits over both the advertising and content of services. As convergence becomes a reality, more discussion is needed to ensure consumers continue to enjoy mobile content services.”

For more information on MEF's policy and regulation work, please visit the MEF website: http://www.m-e-f.org/policy_regulation/

13 November 2009

MEF Connects South Africa

Undeterred by the unseasonable clouds and rain, the South African mobile entertainment sector turned out in force for the MTN-hosted MEF Connects event in Cape Town on 10 November 2009.

Emma Kaye, MEF EMEA’s sole African board representative, welcomed over 80 guests to the Lightbox Studios (with stunning views of the city, a cloud-enshrouded Table Mountain and the iconic Green Point football stadium) before handing over to Chairman Gerrit-Jan Konijnenberg to MC proceedings. Gerrit thanked MTN for sponsoring the evening as well as the speakers who had all flown in especially for the event.

With the 2010 Championship fast approaching, Gerrit pointed out that sporting events are proven in driving mobile entertainment usage. Recalling the experience of the 2002 World Cup when (although at the time groundbreaking) fairly rudimentary technology brought goals to your mobile, GJ observed that this had often led to bill shock and a dead phone battery. Fast forward 7 years, the speed and capacity of networks can deliver a much richer experience like the award-winning video goal alert service offered by Turkish operator Turkcell.

Sony Music’s Ian Henderson described MEF as a ‘global networking forum’ through which he was able to meet new business partners and said that mobile was a bright spot that enabled labels to monetise content in regions where they could previously never even have sold physical product.

When asked about exciting mobile trends, Ian pointed to Europe as a “hotbed of innovation: as well as an explosion in smartphone platforms, you’ve got subscription services such as Spotify (originated in Sweden) and TDC (the Danish telco)". Spotify offers free streaming with upselling of mobile access via paid subscription, whereas TDC has been bundling a free music subscription service with their overall customer offering as a successful customer retention tool. “We need the free tier to attract users then combine it with different levels of service that customers will hopefully pay for,” he added.

When asked about Nokia’s ‘Comes with Music’ project, Ian admitted that, despite a slow start, Nokia remain extremely committed to making it a success. Concern was also raised by an audience member about the lack of margins on music sold via premium rate, but Ian was confident that other business models will lead to lower billing.

Mobile advertising specialist 4th Screen’s Mark Slade talked about the possibilities of targeted mobile marketing where customers opt-in to a database which can open up a whole range of user information.

MTN’s Sharoda Rapeti stated that MTN had joined MEF to send out a clear message about the operator’s commitment to entertainment. She referred to 2010, saying, “The 2010 tournament has simply accelerated the planned infrastructure development required to cope with increased capacity.” With exclusive 2010 mobile rights and a partnership for DVB-H with MultiChoice, MTN is poised to offer subscribers an array of rich media content around the World Cup.

On the question of handset functionality, Sharoda pointed to good market growth in low cost smartphone handsets and MTN’s increased marketing efforts around application stores to encourage users to experiment more with mobile entertainment.

We’d been warned that Capetonians don’t go out in bad weather and, if they do, that they’re tucked up in bed by 9pm. Fortunately neither claim proved correct and MEF members and guests networked till late in the evening.

06 November 2009

Event: Sending Out an SMS

In association with 160characters, on Wednesday 4 November 2009 the Mobile Entertainment Forum held an event called Sending Out an SMS: Charities Prepare To Go Mobile.
"Although charities have been slow to pick up the potential offered by mobile the barriers to adoption are crumbling. With a growing number and range of successful case studies, the removal of VAT on donations by mobile (see charitytext.org) and with the almost total ubiquity of mobile phones, charities need to take a close look at how to make the best of mobile."
This was an especially interesting event, given the news that O2 announced this week, where charities of all sizes will now be able to receive an estimated extra 10p in the pound for text donations of up to £10 made via dedicated 70 prefix short codes.


Charities Aid Foundation, Bright One, Amnesty International, Long Reach Mobile, mBlox, MX Telecom, Mobile Entertainment Forum, ITN ON, Vertu, Phonepay Plus, Pay By Mobile, BBC, Water Aid, PayPal, Shelter, Mobile Data Association, O2, Mobile Interactive Technology, Incentivated and nfpSynergy.

Mike Short - Honorary President, Mobile Data Association and VP, O2:

There was no interoperability of texting until 1998 and the UK didn't have shortcodes or cross industry promotion until the early 90s. In 1999, 1 billion text messages were sent in the UK, which rose to 78 Billions texts sent in the UK in 1998. The MDA is expecting more than 2 Billion a week in the UK to be recorded this year, which adds up to over 100 million.

Why haven't charities benefiited from this uptake? It's been to do with the mobile industry, the Inland Revenue, and gtting the right processes in place. But now we have the 70 shortcode initative, all operators should fall in line and IR treat everyone equally, with no VAT taken.

Text donations are encouraged by strong national campaigns. For example, with the Tsunami Relief campaign, over 1 million text donations were sent within days. Similar take up has been seen with the Bhurma Relief and Children in Need campaigns,

O2 recently announced their changes to text giving, with 90p out of every £1 going to the charity. This is not 100% as there are operator costs, such as antifraud, network, and anti-competitive procedures.

Will other operators do the same? With 83 million subscriptions in the UK today, it's wrong that we're not giving more to charities by the most efficient way, e.g. text. We now have a mechanism, but we've got to do it right.

Andrew Jackson - Head of Client Services, Mobile Interactive Technology (MIT):

MIT were involved with March's Comic Relief campaign, which saw 7.8 million rasied through text donation. Lots of people were happy to donate £5 by text, as this is a nice sum of money. They wouldn't do this before as they were ashamed to call the phone line and to say down the phone "I'd like to donate £5". This is seen as too little.

Text giving has taken off because it is anonymous, you can give small amounts , and it is a simple process. texting is simple, easy, quick, second nature, which makes it ideal for a youth audience. For example, during Comic Relief, Radio 1 encouraged £1 donation and made it a fun thing to do.

This kind of take up only really happens for 2/3 big events a year, such as Comic Relief orChildren In Need. What workes well is giving tangible items that donations will pay for, e.g. a £5 donation will pay for a mosquito net. Charities need to think about what tangible items can people say they have bought through a £5 donation?

Some further tips:
  • Select a demographic clearly, e.g. youth audience
  • Be flexible and give resource to promotion
  • Take the advice of the mobile partners you choose
  • Create a WAP site bounce back to donors, encouraging them to sign up via Gift Aid

Robert Thurner - Commercial Director, Incentivated:

The one key driver behind the growth of the mobile industry has been text, which is still growing by over 30% a year. On the consumer side, there are better handsets, flat rate data plans and better content (e.g. social networks).

But what's holding up charitable giving via text? Firstly, the money that is going to the Inland Revenue rather tha the charity. Secondly, education and awareness on ways to donate, and explaining how it works with other parts of the campaign. Lastly, engagement - what's the difference the text donation makes?

Charities need good CRM systems, so they can see exactly how donors have responded, then et up bespoke campaigns around this, e.g. thanks for donation, invites to volunteering and events, return donations. Measurement and ROI is also important and should work with CRM databases to undertand other parts of the campaign mix and add mobile data to this. This gives proof that text donation works and charities can check how effective mobile is compared to other channels. For example, during a recent Macmillan Campaign, 60% of donations came via text, 30% via their call centre, and 10% via post.

Charities also need to think about where they are looking to use text - volunteers, donations, thank you messages, awareness, mobile sites?

Gift Aid is powerful media ally and text is a good tool for internal Comms, a good way of getting back to people on a regular basis.

MIT also offered charities a free text shortcode, domain and campaign management campaign, so get in touch with them to find out more.

Joe Saxton - founder and driver of ideas at nfpSynergy:

Joe is the author of the 'Sending Out an SMS' report, which is available from nfpSynergy. To get an increased take up in text donations, we need case studies, such as Comic Relief, and a need to work on getting charges lower. We've made progress, as just 1 year ago of every £1.50 donation only 95p went to charity. Now it's even better, with O2 announcing that 90p out of every pound donated via text goes to the charity.

The mobile industry should develop a win:win situation with charities. Younger donors are giving in a way they've never given before, which means that the mobile industry can get more people giving more money earlier on. But price points have been putting off charities.

Marathons are a fantastic opportunity for text donations. Runners could print shortcodes on their t-shirts. This spontaneity and opportunism can raise £100 million more if implemented next year in time for the London Marathon and is well achievable within 5 year time span

Charities need to get act together though, as lots don't keep numbers or records or text donors. They need to get other operators to follow O2's suit and need to get automatic Gift Aid via text bounce back. Currently most charges apply VAT, but as financial transactions don't attract VAT, neither should text donations. If it just money changing hands, e.g. donation, VAT should be 0%.

It needs to be sustainb;e though, as charities can't expect operators big or small give special deals. Giving by mobile phone should be integral part of people's lives, so how can we get more peeple giving more money in more ways than ever before?

There is a real opportunity through a win:win situation - operators, agreggators and charities can all make money through text donations.