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Over-the-top (OTT) digital media services company, Basebone, which services emerging markets around the globe, grew its income by 23% year on year in 2020. This was despite a challenging operating environment dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The operation increased its advertising revenue by 197.5% year-on-year and grew its subscriber base by 114.5% over the same period to 20.6 million subscribers in the regions where it operates, with more than 100,000 subscription activations daily.

Basebone’s footprint expansion in MENA to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in Q4 2020, as well as the growth of its UAE operation was of strategic importance. The GCC markets accounted for 30% of total revenues in 2020, a figure which is expected to grow significantly due to the higher value of subscriptions in these markets. 
Basebone CEO, Michael Holmqvist, says since its inception in 2007, the company has over the years decreased its dependency on South Africa by successfully expanding across the MENA region. 

“We spend millions a year on advertising (this was also the case in 2020) and expansion into new emerging markets, to bring a different digital content experience that we believe users will love. Last year, we experienced our most successful new market launch to date in Saudi Arabia where games have proven our most popular product and the revenues per user are some of the highest levels we’ve seen. Considering the nascent state of our presence in the GCC markets, the future certainly looks bright.”                          

The Middle East is among the fastest growing gaming markets in the world, according to YouGov. Its young population, high internet penetration rates and fast-growing community of actively engaged users have analysts predicting a boom for the gaming and Esports industry, bringing with it new opportunities for monetization.

For Basebone, its main revenue streams include carrier billing, the largest in its six key markets; ad revenue (it offers free access via ads) – an innovation introduced in 2020 to boost revenue; and credit cards, which give the company a global reach.

Aggressive growth plans
Basebone’s growth strategy is three-fold. Firstly, it invests significantly in the value proposition of its product. “The OTT space is characterised by micro billing where users pay a small amount per day. In contrast to some of our competitors, who provide limited content each day, we give unlimited access to all of our users.
     
“In addition, in the markets where we operate many users don’t have sufficient funds to purchase content, even if they are subscribed. We give them a substantial portion of our content for free, a move that has successfully driven retention. We also work with content providers and creators to continuously deliver fresh and relevant content to our markets,” Holmqvist adds.

Basebone also works closely with Google to improve the creativity of its advertising, as well as to harness data to target the right user at the right time. It’s a relationship that has helped Basebone elevate its game over the past year.

When it comes to telco operators, the business works closely with them to improve users’ payment experience. “We work hard to ensure a seamless experience for our users, which means our relationships with the telcos and third-party service providers are important,” notes Holmqvist.

Reflecting on 2020 and the impact of the pandemic, he says there were pros and cons. “The appetite for our products escalated. Our advertising scaled and there was a lot more interest in our ads during the pandemic. 

“On the downside, however, as the pandemic progressed and conditions in the market deteriorated, people had less funds to spend. This was one of the drivers behind giving away content for free with ads.”

As part of its social responsibility measures – and to help people cope with pandemic-imposed restrictions – Basebone offered two of its most popular online courses for free in March 2020, as well as in-house mobile game, ‘Shirk Ball’, which was free to everyone who visited Baseplay.co. 

Looking ahead, Basebone will continue to aggressively expand its flagship product, Baseplay, to which 1.4 million new users worldwide sign up every month. It is a suite of digital content that is packaged into five different subscription services known as Baseplay Stream, Mastery, Games, Family, and Pulse, featuring content from local game developers, filmmakers, and content providers from each respective region. 

On the cards for 2021 is an initiative to address the ever-growing need for fresh and relevant content by engaging with content creators. 

Holmqvist says throughout the industry, and on Baseplay, users are consuming content faster than ever. “They need new, fresh, and original content. With more people staying home and the demand for content becoming greater, content creators have become more important than ever. 

“At the same time, more individuals worldwide are becoming content creators. In fact, we believe we are in the age of content creators. Creators who partner with us will have access to the more than 20 million users (and growing) who are using Baseplay.co as their preferred platform for mobile entertainment and the chance to extend their reach into the largely untapped emerging markets,” he says.

In addition to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the company is currently expanding into Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey. In 2020, Basebone’s new markets alone recorded more than 10 million subscription activations.

“Our aim is to offer a unique value proposition, a great user experience and to focus on markets where other tech giants are not,” concludes Holmqvist.

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