I always love to hear success stories from emerging markets, in part because they teach us a lot about doing business in the U.S. as well. Case in point: Brazil-based mobile entertainment provider Movile just surpassed the one million user benchmark with its new Zeewe TV service, which launched just a month ago. And here’s what’s so special about Zeewe TV: Instead of relying on native apps, it uses HTML5 to offer users access to clips from MTV, (s VIA) Euro 2012 and the upcoming Olympics.
Movile started out working with feature phones more than a decade ago, serving mobile content and services across Latin America. The company’s co-founder and head of U.S. operations, Eduardo Henrique told me during a phone conversation Tuesday that feature phones still account for most of the company’s revenue — but the momentum is shifting, with more users moving to smart phones. “In Latin America, we are expecting an explosion with Android,” he said.
Still, Movile didn’t want to be tied to Google’s (s GOOG) Play store, or Apple’s (s AAPL) app store, for that matter. “We want to be independent of all of these platforms,” Henrique told me. That’s not just because the company doesn’t want to be bound to things like Apple’s in-app subscription rules and fees, but also because it fears the big players could introduce drastic changes to their platforms practically overnight. That’s why Movile started investing in HTML5 development two years ago.
These investments are starting to pay off, albeit slowly. “Nobody is earning real money with HTML5,” Henrique admitted, at least not yet. But it could become a key technology in Latin America’s mobile future. Movile has billing relationships with 37 mobile carriers across Latin America from its feature phone business, and those carriers are now looking to content as a key to sell users data packages. Pay $5 a month for Zeewe TV, and you’ll get mobile internet usage with it for free, or so goes the idea.
Henrique would love to do similar things with U.S. carriers who are looking to address Latino audiences, but so far, Zeewe TV is only available via Facebook to users in the States. Getting set up with Facebook payments was easy, explained Henrique. Getting agreements with carriers is another story. “Mobile carriers are not agile,” he said with a sigh.