20050311

Movida : the Generation Ñ M-VÑO ?

I've been asked a reaction to Movida Communications, Walmart's hispanic centric M-VNO on Sprint's network with the help of The Cisneros Group of Companies. The fact is quite a few people Googled this blog right after Cisneros' press release : the announcement was made on february the 22nd and I was mentioning Movida over one week earlier (only referring to the 3GSM congress moving from Cannes to Barcelona) ! Besides, I've always kept an eye on Wal*Mart, expecting some involvement in the mobile business from the World's dominant retailer.
Needless to remind you how powerful Walmart are with over 138 million visitors every week in their 3,600 units in the US and 1,570 abroad, how they impact the lives of over one million employees or how they influence whole markets, being by far the first customer of big companies (hence the P&G - Gilette deal), some smaller players sometimes even outsourcing their marketing units at the master of data crunching. So here's my reaction, beyond the usual platitudes going with Wal*Mart (like "whether you are an operator, a service/content provider, a retailer or a vendor, you need to pay attention") :

  • My first thought is AOL and Telefonica definitely missed the opportunity a couple of years ago. I can understand no US MNO wanted to open their gates to the then aggressive hispanic leader, but AOL did have at one moment both an Hispanic and a MVNO drive. Well AOL kind of drowned under their own ambitions so I can understand too... as Lenny sang it : so much Time wasted, playing games with love (…) But Baby it ain't over 'till it's over (actually Cisneros does own AOL Latin America Inc !). Of course this is not only about the US : Telefonica knows Walmart holds important positions in Mexico, Argentina or Brasil. And once WMT master the craft of ethnic marketing in mobility, they can consider other targets in Germany and the UK, even if they only rely on Wal-Mart Supercenters or Discount Stores without any Neighborhood Markets. And while they're at it, they can switch to their own brand and sell their always everyday low price service anytime anywhere including Korea and China. Walmart may not be as fun as Virgin nor Walton as sexy as Sir Dick, the perspective can lure new partners : Wal-Mart just signed a deal with CMT (Country Music Television) early march, but as CMT puts it "The two companies are exploring possible opportunities to expand the promotional program to other MTV Networks music services", the said promotional program including "digital media extensions"...
  • My second reaction is Cisneros seems a smart move : there is some competition with Wal-Mart (retail in Puerto Rico) but mostly a perfect complementarity. Wal-Mart partners with a czar in hispanic entertainment and broadcasting (Univision, Venevision, Caracol, Claxson Interactive Group, Eccelera, Playboy TV Latin America & Iberia...). Wal-Mart partners with a great marketer very much familiar to the core target. Wal-Mart partners with an influential player : Gustavo Cisneros holds seats in the media commissions for the UN and the World Economic Forum, and the group knows how to work for/with big partners (ie AOL Latin America, DirectTV Latin America, Pizza Hut). Wal-Mart even partners with a company involved in telecoms, ISPs and mobilecoms : at home, Cisneros hold participations in Telcel Venezuela, Americatel (fixed line services) or Business Service Provider. Talking of which the choice of Sprint makes all the more sense that the ailing MNO joined forces with Nextel, more focused on biz targets.
  • Now regarding the service (TTM S1 2005) : pay as you go vs prepaid looks fine (especially since Cisneros notices that it amounts to 90% of the hispanic wireless business), and I just love the "For English Press Two" claim. Movida branded phones (and cards) mean Walmart wants to control as much as they can their manufacturers, maybe also that they already plan their own brand. It will be interesting to see who will join (speaking Chinese may help).
  • How about the figures, then ? Movida target today's 40 M US Hispanics (17% of all Americans by 2010), and Virgin Mobile USA claim 3 million customers after 2.5 years. I have no idea where the penetration stands among the Hispanics but it may be around the national average (a quite low 61%)… Even with all competitors clinching deals with the remaining Hispanic partners, I don't think the Wall*Mart - Cisneros combo can fail and do under 5 million within 3 years. That would be 13% of their core target, and not necessarily the lowest half of the 25% most cost oriented Latino shoppers.



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