BBM Quick Facts:
More than 60 million monthly active users on BlackBerry devices with more than 20 million new iOS and Android users in the last week
More than 51 million daily active users who are connecting with friends or colleagues an average of one and a half hours every day.
BBM users send and receive more than 10 billion messages each day, nearly twice as many messages per user per day as compared to other mobile messaging apps
Almost half of BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received; indicating how truly engaged BBM customers are.
More than 60 million monthly active users
A positive article (not even considering the Channels Playcard!) on Forbes states:
“BBM Could Be Worth Billions if BlackBerry Can Copy The Line PlayBook” –Tero Kuittinen, October 25, 2013, Forbes.
It is difficult to get a handle on what the early success of BlackBerry’s messaging service on Apple’s AAPL +0.47% iOS and Google’s GOOG +0.49% Android platforms might mean. By Friday 3 PM, BBM has become the #1 app in 80 countries. It hit the 10 M user mark on iOS and Android platforms in 24 hours, yet continues performing remarkably well on its fourth day. It seems that the early wave of super loyal BlackBerry users and curious rubberneckers is segueing into sustained interest in the app. But how to value a free download app that currently offers no paid add-on features or advertising that would create cash flow? The best comparison here is probably LINE, the wildly popular text-messaging service that is now closing on the 300 M download mark.
CEO Thorsten Heins introduces the BlackBerry Z10 (Image credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
Here is the tricky part: LINE, one of the most successful monetization cases in the messaging business, only launched its game service in July 2012. At that point, it had hit 45 M users. It seems possible that BBM could build a similar pool of fresh iOS/Android users in a matter of months. After launching the game service, it took just 9 months for LINE to hit 100 M game downloads. By spring of 2013, LINE’s game and sticker revenue was topping $100 M a quarter. LINE’s strategy of leveraging a free messaging app to build a wildly profitable game marketing platform took just 12 months to execute. The approach is still so novel that it’s hard to evaluate whether it can be copied by other vendors and how the revenue growth patterns might look after two or three years. But it is clear that at least in Asia, possessing a popular free messaging app is the most effective way to promote games. Right now, 19 out of Top 20 highest grossing apps in Korea belong to the KakaoTalk messaging app platform.
By Friday afternoon, BBM still clung to #2 position in the US iPhone download chart – and remained the #1 app in major markets like Turkey, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. It is particularly interesting that BBM is performing so well in markets where BlackBerry never broke through as a smartphone. It is a Top 10 app in countries like Hungary and Italy. It has hit Top 30 even in Sweden and Finland, the European markets that used to be the most hostile towards BlackBerry devices, never even yielding 2% market penetration for BB.
It took LINE 400 days to reach 100 M registered users. BBM currently has around 60 M users on BlackBerry devices and perhaps 15 M on iOS/Android. The BlackBerry user base is likely set to erode relatively rapidly – but the strong early iOS and Android momentum seems to indicate that hitting 100 M users across all platforms could well happen by next summer. Of course, it is far too early to make solid projections for BBM growth. But its success in several key markets in its first week has already eclipsed anything LINE has managed. For example, this past summer LINE could only crack the US iPhone download chart for a single day, peaking at #18. App download market is utterly dominated by games – messaging apps very rarely crack the Top 10 chart of any market and often tend to achieve this in a very narrow spectrum of countries.
In contrast to LINE, WeChat and Kakaotalk, the early traction of BBM is surprisingly even across Latin America, North America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. The only major markets where it is really striking out are Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. This is to be expected – LINE dominates Japan absolutely, Kakao rules Korea and WeChat has a lock on China. But in markets like USA, UK, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, BBM has been able to rack up massive early download volumes even against rival services with very high established market penetration. It looks like BBM has a decent chance of vaulting clearly ahead of rivals such as Tango, Kik and Nimbuzz in coming months.
If BBM hits the middle tier between behemoths like LINE and WhatsApp who are closing in on 100-300 M active monthly users and smaller rivals like Tango and Nimbuzz, how would the service be valued? That depends entirely on whether BlackBerry can build an effective content distribution/marketing system on top of BBM. If it can copy the LINE playbook and start offering social games once it has 45 M iOS/Android users, BlackBerry could be hitting the game platform stage already next spring. BBM currently has strong traction in some of the most lucrative mobile game markets in the world, including USA , UK and Germany.
Expecting BBM to match LINE’s $100M a quarter game/sticker revenue by end of 2014 is a stretch, because BlackBerry has no prior experience in managing this type of business and Japanese consumers are more willing to pay for extras than their Western peers. But a successful BBM network across the globe is a potential marketing platform that could reach revenue of tens of millions a quarter in short order. What BlackBerry needs right now is a clear, effective strategy of rolling out LINE-like content offerings and tailoring them to each major market. If the company can manage this, BBM alone could have a substantial valuation by next summer. LINE is planning a Tokyo IPO right now and its market cap is being tentatively estimated to be in the $8-10 B bracket.
Creating a service that could reach just one quarter of LINE’s success should be in BBM’s grasp – and could be a major reversal of fortune for BlackBerry. Much is now riding on how the company handles its BBM content delivery strategy.