With the growth of mobile content around the year 2000, a group of companies emerged focussing on mobile entertainment content.
Within the value chain they sit between a rock and a hard place i.e. between the Mobile Network Operator and the content owner. They usually provide one or more functions such as a Brand/customer interface, a billing system, content aggregation etc.
Typically, mobile entertainment companies have always worked (profitably) with two main content types i.e. ringtones and single player Java/Brew games.
This has been a profitable market and the market for mobile entertainment content will continue to grow significantly.
There is little doubt about that.
Question is: what role will these companies play in a new world?
As the industry matures, these are turbulent times for this section of the value chain and perhaps a shakeout is looming.
Ringtones are maturing to truetones and the balance of power shifts to the content owner(and so does the revenue).
Games, meanwhile have not yet shown wider appeal (such as multiplayer games) and we see some market consolidation with pure games companies like Iomo and Macrospace in the UK being acquired by bigger players.
Driven market necessity, mobile entertainment companies may be forced to change their strategies. Mobile Social networking / Mobile user generated content / Mobile Web 2.0 may be the logical path.
Mobile entertainment companies are not content owners nor are they mobile network operators. And this makes them very vulnerable.
They have tried to change their position in the value chain by formulating different strategies; for instance entering games/content creation. In doing so, they will conflict with existing partners who are also trying to consolidate their position in the value chain (witness both Orange and Vodafone dropping carphone warehouse on grounds of cost cutting measures )
As they seek to embrace the new world of user generated content to balance the decline in their traditional markets(ringtones and games), they are entering a market segment they are not usually familiar with. This explains a raft of announcements tending to some form of ‘social networking’.
This is unusual because with their focus on packaged mobile entertainment content like ringtones and games(which has been profitable so far), mobile entertainment companies are typically not known for working with user generated content/social networking.
But the shifting tectonic plates of the value chain may change all that.
Indeed the cross operator connectivity of mobile entertainment companies gives them an advantage when working with user generated content and the companies who play it right this time, have much to gain.
Conversely, there will be many losers – the mortality arising from a failure to execute a mobile social networking strategy and / or a larger player like a mobile network operator or a content owner executing a better strategy.
Already, there have been some early movers. Dada (mobile blogging) and monstermob (create your own space) have announced community initiatives. Mobile Streams have launched a community called FunkySexyCool
But this will be an increasingly ruthless battleground with conflicting and changing alliances.
Mobile Streams for instance has launched its community with three Mobile network operators(Vodafone Germany, Mobilkom (A1) Austria and Sunrise Switzerland.) – and there is no reason why these operators may not want to launch social networking initiatives of their own(if they have not done so already!)
With cross operator connectivity and powerful billing systems (for example Mobile Streams Vuesia and Motricity’s Fuel , mobile entertainment companies are at an advantage when it comes to user generated content
Indeed the biggest opportunity seems to be to grow a mobile community and hope to be acquired by a web player like MySpace(or at least partner with them)
Its too early to say who the winners will be but there are likely to be many losers.
Indeed the critical aspect of user generated content led us to cover it in so much detail in mobile web 2.0 .
Almost any player in the mobile data value chain could embrace a successful mobile social networking/mobile user generated content strategy.
So .. the race is on! Watch this space!
Image source: easyringtonemaker