The BBC has entered into a content distribution partnership with Viber, the free messaging and calls app, as it looks to grow its presence in emerging markets.
The two companies first collaborated earlier this year in Nepal, helping victims of April’s earthquake to follow the latest updates in a public service version of its ‘Public Chats’ partner content facility.
The BBC is this week launching the first in a series of local and regional Public Chats, beginning with BBC Burmese, which will provide a live news feed and daily edit of content about Myanmar, where Viber has 14.8 million unique users.
Viber is keen to expand the range of content available on the platform, and has already partnered with publishers such as Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, as well as London’s Buckingham Palace, through a partnership with Prince Andrew.
The app has now attracted over 148 million followers on more than 1,500 Public Chats, and plans to open up the tool to everyone, allowing all users to create Public Chats around their own interests.
“We will see a convergence of individual mobile services coming together around one platform, the messaging apps”
“It’s a real push for us to get into that publishing space,” Viber chief marketing officer Mark Hardy told M&M Global. “This year has been all about testing the platform, and seeing what works, and what kind of content has been popular.
“We’re really pushing ourselves into that space of being a mobile entertainment ecosystem. We want to find new ways for Viber users to receive content, have fun, play games and their own stories,” he added.
As well as proving an entertainment hub for users, Hardy says the coming 12 months will see messaging apps such as Viber expand the functionality to incorporate areas such as financial services and ecommerce.
“The big trend will be around this theme of ecosystems. If you look at Asia, and the big players in those markets, it’s possible to execute financial transactions via messaging apps to book taxis, order a pizza and check your bank balance. We’re certainly moving towards that,” said Hardy.
“We will see a convergence of individual mobile services coming together around one platform, the messaging apps.”
Viber, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday, has 664 million unique global users across 193 countries.