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Lebara pioneers migrant VOD and streaming offer

Alex Yau
July 6, 2015

Ethnic MVNO targets 100,000 Lebara Play subscribers in first twelve months

Ethnic MVNO Lebara Mobile has revealed a “world first” multi-million pound streaming and video-on-demand service for migrants with the ambitious target of 100,000 subscribers in its first twelve months.

Lebara Play was launched by chairman and CEO Yoganathan Ratheesan (pictured) at a press conference in central London on June 19. It forms part of Lebara’s strategy to move beyond its traditional MVNO business.

It will be available via any Android and iOS device or set-top box and features 150 channels and 3,000 movies targeted at an initial four ethnic segments –  French West African, English West African, Turkish and Tamil – of its 5.3 million customer base. This will be followed by Hindi, Punjabi, Pakistani, Bengali, Polish, Romanian and Malaysian content at the end of July. Mandarin will launch at the end of the year.

The service is available now in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and France with the rest of Europe and other territories to follow by the end of the year. Many of these territories
represent new markets for Lebara which is operational in eight countries.

By the end of the year it will offer 250 channels and 5,000 movies in 13 different languages. A number of channels will be offered as part of a freemium model with customers having to pay for full access.

Boxing clever
The service costs £9.99 for a 30-day contract or users can get a year’s subscription and set-top box for £149.

Ratheesan claims that the service offers simplicity by bringing content sources together in one place for a single, cheaper price.

He said: “If you want to have all these movies and channels today, you are going to be paying at least £30. In my household, we have multiple channels from back home that are being sold into the UK but I can’t get them in an integrated box. I have to subscribe to them separately. I have to pay £5 for one channel, another £7 for a different channel with different cards, set-tops boxes or a satellite dish on your home.

“That’s how migrants consume their TV channels today and if you want movies either you go and buy a DVD or watch it on a pirate website.”

Users will be able to pay for the service at any of Lebara’s 250,000 distribution sites with set-top boxes available in selected areas and from large retail partners such as Carphone Warehouse. The same voucher system used for prepay mobile top-ups will be used and the company has been educating its retail partners for a number of months on the service.

“Our migrant distribution channel is an asset that we have built that others don’t have,” added Ratheesan. “The communities are tight-knit so if the retailers understand the product, they will be our ambassadors and ensure the customers understand it.”

Streamlined service
As part of plans to grow users on the service, Ratheesan says Lebara will double its global distribution partner base to 500,000 within the next six months.

The launch is being headed up by former Singapore Telecom head of pay TV, Aditya Thakur who joined as head of media in March. He says that the brief from the Lebara broad was to keep the offering as simple as possible.

“We are trying to unshackle migrants from having to go to five different places to get all of the content that they need,” he said. “If they want all of their channels, they should be able to get that in one go. We don’t believe that content needs to be consumed in a classically linear fashion (live) or by video-on-demand. We believe in giving customers the best of both worlds in a language of their choice.

“We have spoken about 150 channels and 3,000 movies and by the end of the year we are looking at 250 channels and 5,000 movies. What is important is that we will allow people to very simply choose the language and content that they want because simplicity is what is going to work across all of our audiences.”

The service will be backed by a highly targeted street level campaign focusing on areas with high densities of different ethnic groups. It will be headed up by recently appointed chief marketing officer Keith Kirby.

He told Mobile News: “As this is a new product that hasn’t been in the market before, we want to be very specific about who we are after. The campaign needs more detail than just branding lots of stores as we have done in the past. It’s almost down to street level so we will have a particular poster because we know that we’ll have a particular ethic segment passing it everyday.”

For the full coverage, see Mobile News issue 592.

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