M2BTV stands for Media to Broadband Television and marks a new epoch in the world of mass home- entertainment through Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). IPTV is system where digital TV is provided using the Internet Protocol over a network infrastructure which increasingly, includes delivery by broadband connection. IPTV is relatively new phenomenon and started a little over a decade ago when ABC News first broadcast its program over the internet using video-conferencing facilities.
Since then, broadband services with increasingly bigger bandwidth capabilities and rapidly expanding subscription to broadband services have enabled IPTV to reach the masses on a much more comprehensive level, major media and techonorati players in the past few years, from Microsoft to Bellsouth, who understand the potential and significance of this form of entertainment have jumped onto the IPTV bandwagon.
In the same vein, M2B’s Chief Executive, Colin Binny (pictured), a media-industry veteran, is a visionary in the world of broadband entertainment: he first saw the potential of broadband as a significant force in media in the early 90s.
In 2000, he founded M2B World Pte Ltd and focussed on developing the infrastructure to support streaming content in Singapore. This included the construction of two major server farms, one in Science Park, Singapore and another in California, St Hose so as to make their programs available internationally through the net.
The next few years were spent acquiring content for its programs, since 2000, the company has become a major distributor of CCTV content on broadband outside of China and in 2006, signed a picture deal with Sony Pictures International and is now offering The Da Vinci code in its vast library of movies available on demand to its subscribers – a fact that M2BTV’s Vice-President of Corporate Communications, Kim Siong, proudly raises.
In 2004, M2B World Pte Ltd. did a reverse merger with Amaru Inc, USA, and is currently listed on NASD Bulletin Board. This has served to raise M2B World’s market visibility; the company has since garnered US$40 million in investment and boasts a viewership of a 100 million web visitors monthly around the world. While M2BTV is based in Singapore, Colin stresses that Singapore makes up a small percentage of the viewership on the web. Perhaps this is because the phenomenon of broadband television has not yet caught on in a big way in Singapore as it has in the States.
However, Colin is optimistic and has hopes for M2BTV to become a household name globally in 10 years time. Such lofty aspirations may not seem to far-fetched when one considers the paradigm-shift which M2BTV offers in terms of home-entertainment and the unique business model on which the company is run.
Compared to cable and satellite television, IPTV offers a much more interactive and personalised form of entertainment for the consumer. The company boasts a vast library of copyrights to all manner of entertainment content: a good US$30 million worth of programs from shopping , fashion, classic Hollywood films, travel, comedy, documentaries and learning channels. M2B’s Vice-President of Corporate Communications, Kim Siong, stresses that ‘Content is King’ : while many other telcos in the world hope to have a part of the IPTV pie, they may not have the knowledge and connections to aggregate content and program the content to the specific demands of customers around the world.
Kim Siong underlines that the programs offered in Singapore are typically more Asian, as opposed to those offered in the States. For example, Korean drama serials are a big draw factor for subscribers here, more so that even Hollywood films: ‘movies are important but serials are far more important’ he adds.
Apart from entertainment programming, M2B offers a myriad of other interactive services including video-conferencing service called “Face2Face”, video email, shopping services, travel guides, book services, web browsing and educational programs for children.
With M2BTV and a router, a family of five can each be watching different television programs through the different platforms of the television, PC and laptops, and/or 3G at the same time, thus offering viewers much more flexibility in terms of choosing when, where and what they want to watch and how they want to be entertained.
The running costs of IPTV are also alot lower than their non-digital counterparts: M2BTV’s vast content is made readily available through the relatively inexpensive system of IP streaming, as compared to the hefty expenses incurred in laying down cables and satellite networks.
In addition to this, their business model runs on revenue from advertising – not subscription. In addition to this, the fact that the company run their own server farms allows them to develop a consumer management system – viewer habits can be tracked more precisely, and viewers themselves can be profiled, for advertising purposes and the development of relevant content, thus creating another revenue possibility for the company whilst allowing the company to better understand consumer needs and preferences.
The possibilities are wide for M2BTV and the technology that on which it rests. However, it does not come without challenges, at the moment, M2BTV is somewhat limited to big cities with extensive broadband connectivity, because of the nature of its transmission.
Also, because IPTV is based on the Internet Protocol, it is sensitive to packet loss and delays if the IPTV connection is not fast enough. However, with technological advances in compression capabilities, Kim Siong states that glitches of these sort are reduced to a minium and tends to surface only occasionally in areas with very high- density shared network usage, such as in office buildings – homes are usually free of this limitation.
In addition to this, there is a need to raise advertiser and viewer awareness as well as deal with the possible challenges that will come from traditional broadcasters – the fight for content rights will intensify, but Binny and Kim Siong will be prepared to meet these challenges. They must be, if they have plans for M2BTV to be a household name in the global IPTV industry. It will certainly be interesting to see M2BTV unfold its business plans over the next decade.