MocoInterview: Seth Cummings On Taking Amp’d Content International

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Following Amp’d’s launch in Canada last week and its efforts in Japan, I spoke to Amp’d Senior Vice President for Content Development & Programming and co-founder Seth Cummings about the MVNO’s strategy for international expansion.

“Amp’d is less of a straight MVNO and more of an entertainment company,” said Seth, adding that it formed an MVNO in the US out of necessity. Amp’d targets the 18-24 year old market, which it believes requires edgy content — and the carriers in the US are G-Rated. The deal with Telus in Canada is not strictly an MVNO, more like a licensing deal, while in Japan Amp’d has launched a digital content portal to aggregate western mobile content, since that seemed to be missing. The portal is sole aggregator of western content on the KDDI deck, and although KDDI is Amp’d’s launch partner in Japan the deal is not exclusive, and Amp’d will be looking to sign deals with the other operators. Amp’d’s plan is to offer a global distribution footprint for mobile and is actively chasing other markets, although Seth declined to say which ones. He referred to a quote by Amp’d president Bill Stone that by the end of the year more people will access Amp’d Live from outside the US than within.

The main differentiating factor for Amp’d is the amount of investment it has put into studios to create its own content. That’s an incredibly capital intensive business (Amp’d just raised another $107 million in a fifth funding round) but seems to pay off — apparently original Amp’d content accounts for just 5 percent of the content on the Amp’d deck, but generates 40 percent of downloads. Seth said that was because “a lot of the aggregated content is repurposed from what’s on TV”, whereas the in-house stuff is designed specifically for mobile with a beginning and end to the short shows. This will be continued internationally. “The office in Toronto is actually a studio with a few offices in the back,” said Seth, adding that in Japan Amp’d is looking for a location for its studio.

“There’s always going to be a percentage of the deck that doesn’t translate to other markets, so it’s important to have local content,” said Seth, citing Canadian hockey show Puck Off as an example. It will be trialled in the US — all content goes through a test pilot series to see if it works in a particular market — but success in the US will be a bonus rather than a requirement. In other cases the US format is taken and localized. For example, Fashion Sense has a model wandering around places like Rodeo Drive looking for trendy people, then she finds out where they bought what they are wearing, visits the shops and so on. Japan is “very interested” in that, and as well as taking the US show will produce its own Japanese-based show — which will then be exported to the US and Canada. The deal with MuchMusic in Canada is seen as big, since Amp’d will be able to export that content around the world. Some content is developed for international in mind — Dan Shaughnessy’s Big League Report which covers Japanese Baseball players in the US is one example.

Amp’d started with this plan in mind. “The backend systems we developed, we developed with going global in mind,” said Seth, noting that it’s easy for anything to be sent overseas. In fact, Amp’d can program the deck for each country from its LA offices.

Considering Amp’d’s target audience I asked about social networking. Seth said that Amp’d tries to be community agnostic and has access to a lot of social networks from its deck. It also has a special deal with Live Journal because of the latter’s Vox service, which is apparently targeted towards the Japanese market. Amp’d is in the process of developing its own mobile social networking platform where people from all of Amp’d’s operations will be able to aggregate, and it will also scrape other sites so that it can include images and video. There’s no launch date on that yet.

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