OTT messaging app Viber plans to make money with value-added services

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Viber plans to roll out value-added services designed to monetize its platform, but it pledged its core calling and messaging services will remain free.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, Viber CEO Talmon Marco called free voice and messaging "sort of a pact we made with our users when we launched," but added "This year we will start offering value-added services in order to generate revenue. We've got to do it at some point."

Marco did not divulge details on the new services, but said Viber has already discounted mobile advertising as a monetization option. "The problem with advertising… is that [devices] don't have that much screen real estate," he explained. "You take up some of it with an ad, you have even less. It's just doesn't look good. There are better ways to make money."

During an appearance at February's Mobile World Congress event, Marco urged mobile operators losing messaging and voice revenues to free over-the-top challengers like Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Messenger to consider revenue-sharing partnership agreements. Viber recently signed its first carrier deal with Indonesian operator Axis, which offers subscribers access to Viber at a reduced price in an effort to encourage consumers to upgrade to more expensive data plans.

Marco said Viber also is open to other types of agreements with carriers. For example, he said Viber could team with a carrier to offer enhanced voice calling over a carrier's voice network, and the two companies could share the resulting revenues from charges to end users. Marco hinted that some deals are already in the works: "Expect to hear some pretty cool things later this year," he said.

Viber now counts more than 175 million users worldwide. The company's services cost $200,000 per month to run.

"With so many free alternatives the ability to charge for messaging services seems unlikely, forcing messaging companies to find other ways to monetize," Strategy Analytics Director, Apps Research Josh Martin said last month. "Failure to do so will likely doom some of the high-flying companies today--unless those companies are acquired by larger corporations that use them as brand extensions. The notion that over the top messaging services can be perpetually revenue-free will proliferate until one service fails--making consumers face the stark reality that everything has a price."

For more:
- read this Mobile World Live article

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