We are pleased to introduce Nicolas d’Hueppe, CEO of Alchimie, as the subject of this month’s interview. Nicolas has been in the industry for the last 15 years and has been the key driver behind Alchimie’s strategy and ultimate success. He explains how services have evolved and how the mobile payment market pivots around the all-important mobile network operators (MNOs).
Could you introduce yourself and Alchimie?
I have been a tech entrepreneur for the past 20 years, the founder and director of Achimie and author of “Votre énergie est inépuisable”. Alchimie is exciting because it helps media and celebrities to launch their own channels! It is essentially one’s own subscription-based video-on-demand platform and gives influencers the opportunity to build a channel in their own image.
What is Alchimie’s mission in the OTT market?
We want to thoroughly-modernize historical linear-based TV by transforming the viewing experience into big theme channels (music, travel, politics, hunting, cars…). Our strategy is to use SVOD to give celebrities, experts and others who are strongly-positioned within certain segments a foot in the video door in the most affordable way possible.
Here’s an example. We know that someone like Jacques Attali, a French writer, businessman, economist and senior civil servant, doesn’t have the time to shoot documentaries and yet video is where someone like him can share his vision and discoveries. Alchimie provides its technology (video platform / billing management) and its library of contents within which Jacques Attali is getting inspired to create its editorial chain.
We help people like Jacques Attali to distribute their content chain in stages. To start the channel is distributed alone on a site, if successful then we include it in our B2B offer, then in all our distribution channels (smart TV, box operators, box TV …). The formula works well as these well-known personalities come with their own brands, communities, audiences – and their own marketing efforts – and this helps boost subscribers.
We have worked for three years to build the fundamentals of the company which is our catalogue, distribution networks and technology. We create the brands upstream and the whole system that follows is already in place.
What is your acquisition strategy?
First of all, we have a strong commitment from the communities. People come back because they’re fans of youtubers (as Poisson Fécond.tv), political figures (as Jacques Attali) or actors (as Guillaume Canet). This solved part of the problem of customer acquisition costs because customer acquisition is no longer only achieved through advertising campaigns. And editorial quality is now key: subscribers are watching massively the channels they subscribe to. All of this builds a strong relationship with the consumer and increase the ARPU.
The players in the carrier billing market have developed expertise in traffic acquisition and billing management. As operators distribute 50% of the global video offer, they remain at the core of our ecosystem. To continue to be present in the market, you have to add premium offerings at some point. We’ve made the investment in this regard and I believe the mobile billing sector is very much alive.
What is the place of DCB in your strategy?
DCB remains the best way to make micro-payments for subscriptions and its even more efficient than Amazon. This is a pivotal moment for the market and we need to be confident in our own abilities and not look to foreign shores for direction because this market is way ahead when it comes to micro-payments and subscription management. We must ensure that our operator payment system is valued and protected through collective action and protection solutions such as Evina.
Today, compared to the GAFA, I think that the subscription flows could be optimized. For example, with Netflix you can unsubscribe and re-subscribe in one click without any further procedures. This one-click path is very efficient and Netflix capitalizes on re-subscription. Today, on the operator path, if you need to re-subscribe, you have to redo the whole process.
The market must not be flattened at the bottom, regulations must allow good players to express themselves while punishing bad practices, as is the case today with cards payment for example.
What is the outlook for your mobile payment business? How does it fit into a multi-channel payment strategy?
Our distribution platform is payment agnostic, all of which can be applied, it is up to us to combine distribution channels and payment methods in a coherent way. Mobile payment is part of this logic and is one of the means of payment that we offer.
We invented chains, we set up a system of products, of editing chains. And we ask ourselves the question, as every product publisher does: how am I going to distribute and maximise my presence with the consumer? That’s when we start to approach the operator.
Indeed, the operator is more than DCB, it’s the box, the portals, the web portals, the mobile portals, the portals in the box, the bundles, the sale on behalf of third parties, etc. There are a lot of economic models. We find the same thing with manufacturers, web platforms, or even non digital players such as hotel chains.
What about fraud in all this? How do you respond to it?
Fraud is present in the digital world in a native way because as soon as there is a payment system and money, there is fraud. There’s credit card fraud and even the relatively new Bitcoin is not immune to fraud. Knowing that you can’t possibly make fraud disappear, you have to regulate it and prevent it with the proper tools.
When it comes to digital advertising, bots must be prevented from clicking on your advertising banners and there must be effective third party account certification. When it comes to payment systems, one needs to constantly search for new potential security breaches and this applies to both the online and offline worlds. Unfortunately, we need to learn to live with fraud but this does not prevent us from developing new security systems to protect the consumer, the publisher and the operator from the opportunists.
In the end, what matters is trust. Trust between consumers and means of payment, trust between the different players in the market. By building an offer based on quality content and by protecting ourselves from fraud thanks to Evina, we reinforce the trust of all the actors in the chain and we contribute to the sustainability of the market.