Telefonica is today announcing a deal with Samsung that will see it make an even bigger move into the area of carrier billing. Samsung will integrate the carrier’s billing backend directly into its own mobile services, meaning that the Telefonica customers (it has 316 million worldwide) who use the Samsung Hub and Samsung Apps portals on Samsung smartphones will be able to buy apps, music, videos, books, games and more and charge them directly to their phone bills.
The agreement, which will use Telefonica’s BlueVia payment APIs, is a significant one for Telefonica. So far it has inked deals with app portal operators, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and RIM, and with billing providers like Bango; this effectively closes the loop for it by securing a deal with the world’s largest handset maker, although a recent deal to help the carrier finance the procurement and distribution of BlackBerry devices could point to Telefonica gearing up for a similar deal with that handset maker, too.
In addition to Bango, Telefonica also works with BOKU, where it led a $35 million investment last year. It’s not clear how this deal with Samsung will play out between these two rival billing providers. In the past Telefonica has been vague on the subject, saying that it will work one or the other depending on the situation.
Telefonica has been especially bullish on trying to come up with a way to get a piece of the action on apps and other content that is getting purchased on smartphones and tablets. Apple’s early move into the area with its very popular App Store (just this week marking its 50-billionth download) set a precedent for all but cutting carriers out of the picture, with Apple handling the payment on its own platform and then dividing up resulting revenues with the app publishers.
Mobile advertising alongside often-free apps is one other area where carriers and others have tried to play, although these revenues are still small in relation to those collected from downloads and in-app purchases.
But the promise of carrier billing, as we have noted before, is that it not only offers carriers a look in to the growing pot of money being made from smartphone content, but it also provides a route for publishers to better target consumers in parts of the world where smartphone usage is growing rapidly, but payment card penetration is not so much.
The carrier framework can be used not only for consumers who take monthly plans, but also for prepaid accounts, with each purchase deducted from there, as already happens with phone minutes, data bytes and SMS messages. This is an area where Spain’s Telefonica, which has more users in emerging markets in Latin America than it does in any single market in Europe, can hope to gain a foothold with its carrier billing offering, even if it has (so far) missed the boat in more developed markets.
Nevertheless, this deal will be implemented in phases, starting first with a rollout with Telefonica’s subsidiary in Germany “in the coming months.”
“We strongly believe that carrier billing has the potential to drive the monetisation of digital content,” Wayne Thorsen, vice president of Global Partnerships at Telefónica Digital, said in a statement. “Partnerships like this allow us to harness the power of the billing relationships we have with our customers to make it easier for them to consume content on their tablets and mobile devices.”
For Samsung, meanwhile, it gives the company the ability to promote its own content portals as easy to use — one way of driving more users there instead of to Google’s services. As Samsung tries to further differentiate itself from the other OEMs using Android, and Google itself, little things like this could help it along the way.
“Samsung is committed to ensuring that our customers have choice and convenience when purchasing content on our devices,” Lee Epting, VP of Media Solutions Centre Europe for Samsung Electronics Europe, said in a statement. “Our partnership with Telefónica Digital allows us to deliver yet another easy and convenient purchasing experience to our Samsung Hub and Samsung Apps customers.”
Telefonica and Samsung are not strangers to each other in the area of new services; they have co-invested in the latest round for semantic, real-time search startup Expect Labs.
I’ve found that when people visit San Francisco, it’s not unusual to hear them ask something like: “No seriously, is there a coffee shop on every block in this city?” Yes, San Francisco likes coffee. So do a lot of cities. Busy people thrive on coffee, especially in the tech industry. In fact, some would even say that a substantial amount of coffee is an essential ingredient to success.
Phil Jaber would agree with that statement. After a long love affair with the brew and decades spent testing out his own blends, in 2003, he founded Philz Coffee. What was started out of a corner grocery store has today grown into a budding coffee chain, with 13 stores now open and serving across the Bay Area — one of which you’ll find in Facebook’s headquarters.
With all the coffee flowing through the Bay Area, Philz has stood out by combining varietals to make a bunch of fantastic tasting blends that are made without using a bunch of machinery. These blends were invented by Phil himself, and while they’re not patent-protected, they’re secret family recipes that you won’t find anywhere else, Phil’s son Jacob Jaber and current Philz CEO tells me.
Philz is a proponent of the drip coffee method and, while that may sound like a “hipster” practice to those outside of the Bay, it’s pretty fantastic and has taken off in the Bay Area. Some connoisseurs swear to it as the only way to make and drink it.
As a sign of just how hot the specialty coffee market is getting (at least in San Francisco), fellow Bay Area boutique coffee chain, Blue Bottle, took home $20 million in venture capital in October from Index Ventures’ Mike Volpi, True Ventures’ Tony Conrad and serial entrepreneur Bryan Meehan, among others. At the time, the coffee chain had expanded to ten stores of its own.
When asked if Philz sees Blue Bottle as a competitor, Jaber said that he doesn’t — that the success of one is a positive for the other, and that the market for this kind of branded, personalized coffee experience is huge. In other words, he thinks there’s plenty of room for both to get enough people caffeinated to pay the electricity bills.
Today, Philz Coffee is adding some growth capital of its own. Although the company isn’t ready to disclose the exact amount, Jaber says that the company has raised an eight-figure round that’s on the lower end of the spectrum. From what we can gather from sources, it appears to be in the $15 to $25 million range. The lead investor in the round is Summit Partners, and as a result of the firm’s investment, Summit Managing Director Greg Goldfarb will be taking a seat on the startup’s board of directors.
Jaber says that the company will also be looking to add a much smaller angel round on top of the growth equity investment, which they hope to close in the near future. While the angel investor list remains unclear, we were able to learn that it comes from entrepreneurs and executives in the consumer tech and retail spaces.
When asked why they decided to partner with Summit, the CEO tells us that the firm understood Philz’ ethos better than anyone else, both intellectually and viscerally, which was important to them, especially as it’s a family business and a passion of both Jabers. Of course, it also helps that the father and son duo will retain control of the company, with Summit taking a minority interest rather than a controlling share.
Philz’ name has slowly begun to spread of late, thanks to partnerships the company has struck with Virgin America, for example. If you’ve flown on a Virgin America flight recently and had a cup of coffee, you were drinking one of Phil’s blends.
With the new capital in its coffers, the company will look to strike a handful of partnerships like that one to increase distribution and awareness among coffee fans. To that end, Philz is also going to begin expanding outside of the Bay Area. Plans are still in motion, but Jaber says that you’ll likely see Philz begin to expand in California first, and into the surrounding states. They want to start close to home first. So you won’t be seeing Philz in Prague any time soon, unfortunately, but LA? San Jose? And you cities on the West Coast? Look out. Philz crazy tasty blends may end up on your streets sometime in the near future.
For more, find Philz Coffee at home here.
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The European Commission believes that, alongside the rise of smartphones, tablets and other TV replacements, by 2016 connected TVs could be used in the majority of European homes — up from around 40.4 million today. Today it released a Green Paper to lay the groundwork for how it might cope with that.
To be clear, this is not a re-writing of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the basic set of rules first introduced in 2010 covering areas single-market convergence, although it could lead to that. Initially, the purpose of the Green Paper will be to get a better handle on an area that is rapidly changing with the boom in mobile broadband, the rise of tablets and video apps, those connected TVs and more. It’s part of Kroes’ wider Digital Agenda strategy, which has covered areas like addressing the digital divide, the role of regulation in childrens content, cybersecurity, tech brain drain and more.
As part of the Green Paper, the EC seeks feedback on things like how TV is watched, the limitations of digital content distributed on a per-country basis, exclusivity deals for films and other media, and whether self-regulation (used widely today) is doing enough — issues that could potentially impact, among others, device makers like Samsung, LG and (perhaps!) Apple; streaming companies like Amazon and Netflix; and publishers/creators.
Neelie Kroes, the outspoken Commission VP who oversees this area, focuses her attention on connected TVs specifically today: “Connected TV is the next big thing in the creative and digital worlds,” she is expected to note in a statement today.
But Kroes also acknowledges that even if it’s not a huge LG set in a TV room that will be the lever for how things transform, the evolution is certainly an issue regardless. “Convergence between sectors means people can enjoy a wider choice of great content – but it also creates disruptions and challenges. We need a converged and EU-wide debate to help deal with these changes.” Indeed, figures from Cisco’s most recent Visual Networking Index, a huge study it puts out annually, mobile video consumption worldwide exceeded 50% for the first time last year and shows no sign of slowing down, with Europe accounting for over 20% of all global mobile traffic.
Part of the issue in Europe is that, at the moment, there are some cross purposes at work.
For example, when it comes to content, deals are often cut on a per-country basis, which makes it hard to then charge and consume content across borders — let alone license content. On another level, there are national regulators trying to tackle issues of cross-media ownership that may not harmonize with those of other countries. There is also the thorny issue of standards. Is it really the role of the EC to get involved in areas like whether we should be sold HbbTV or MHP hardware? The endorsements that regulators once made years ago for mobile TV seemed back then, and especially now, pretty hollow considering that nothing took off, and in fact what people love to use today are apps that stream on iOS, Android and other platforms.
Still, given that we are slowly marching to a new era of content consumption it’s useful to start laying some ideas on to the table, and if it means that I might be able to watch the latest series of Borgen, with subtitles, right when it gets released in Denmark, all the better.
(Link to the Green Paper will get posted here)
View original post here: EC Wades In On Connected TV, Cross-Border Content Regulation In New Green Paper