Well, this is unprecedented: within around seven days of acquiring global SMS, MMS and IVR rights related to the Indian Premier League, vRock Mobile has managed to license non-exclusive content rights to multiple VAS companies and ink deals with all the telecom operators. This is quite unlike previous years, wherein one VAS company has cornered one set of rights, and then tried to enforce them, often unsuccessfully.

The deals:
PhoneyTunes as a technology enablement partner on SMS and MMS
One97 Communications is a partner on the Voice Platform, with a contest at Rs. 10 per voice pulse, which will be promoted on a TV Ticker during games. They can also run SMS, MMS and IVR services.
Indiatimes 58888: for live mobile commentary, SMS alerts, IVR and MMS. Indiatimes has also planned contests. No ticker on TV.

They’re also in discussions with Mobile VAS startup MCarbon for USSD based services. More interestingly, they’re in talks to acquire a stake in PhoneyTunes, among others, vRock CEO Jatin Ahluwalia confirmed to MediaNama.

In the past, there have been issues regarding live scores and ‘Hot News’ being delivered via Mobile, and a case is pending in the Madras High court. These developments clearly set a precedent regarding copyrights. At the core of vRock’s deals is unprecedented support from the BCCI and the IPL, who have written to telecom operators, content broadcasters, content aggregators and mobile VAS companies, asking them not to infringe BCCI-IPL’s, Global Cricket Ventures’ and vRock’s rights by either copying content from exclusive platforms.

The notification, of which MediaNama has a copy, also states that BCCI-IPL will not hesitate to initiate legal action against the producers, transmitters and distributors of infringing content. vRock has been authorized to use IPL names, trademarks, audio and content such as live scores reporting and match schedules.

Excerpts from a telephonic interview we did today with Ahluwalia:

Have you acquired a stake in PhoneyTunes?
It’s actually a bit early. We are in discussions with them. Our overall vision is to create an entire ecosystem of VAS related industry, to push it from a cottage industry to an organized industry. And if we can play a role from evolution to revolution, so to speak, there is an investment thesis behind that. PhoneyTunes and probably some more would be our choice of partnership at that level, so we can contribute our knowhow, and bring in some capital infusion to improve the standard and delivery capabilities, and make a large ecosystem for VAS.

I wanted to get a sense of what you’ve done here: you’ve bought rights, and sold them forward?
We haven’t sold any rights. We’ve got the rights as the official licensee. The rights are from the IPL, through GCV. We’re only an official licensee till the duration of 2014. To enable these services to the mobile consumer, you will need partnership with many people. I view myself as a Mobile Media business, where I build a constuct, whereby we engage the mobile consumer society across the world, described as a pyramid with three layers, at the bottom of the middle of the pyramid. To do that we need to partner and collaborate with many partners. One97, PhoneyTunes, Indiatimes: all of them are our technology partners, where we can leverage whatever we have in form of rights, to be extended to millions of people across the world. There’s no question of us selling any right. We don’t have any right to sell.

But you have licensed these rights forward?
Yes, absolutely. The right phrase for that is: the official licensee, and we have the SMS, MMS and IVR rights. And I reiterate, we are not selling these rights at all. If we had to sell, we wouldn’t have bought them in the first place. We’re also talking to MCarbon, where they’ve leverage their expertise in USSD. We’re expanding the ecosystem by bringing more and more partners, whereby everyone contributes. We’re also talking to MCarbon, where they’ve leverage their expertise in USSD.

What do you bring on board from a technology perspective?
We are in talks with PhoneyTunes and other prospective partners. We bring in our expertise, our capital infusion, to build one ecosystem. We don’t want to own any technology platform. We have our strength of defining, and basically delivering an outstanding value and giving the consumer what they want, how they want and where they want. In the process, if we have to bring in a technology partner, we will do that.

Could you confirm that the value of the deal with GCV for the first year is Rs. 12.5 crores?
I have no authority to talk about this. You should contact GCV and take their view on it. My position is of an official licensee, and in my humble way, I am only committed to bringing great value.

Do you think you’ll recover the amount that you’ve promised to GCV with the licensing deals that you’ve done?
Honestly, I’m in for the long haul. Even if it means that I don’t break even or incur a loss in the first year, so be it. I’m making an ecosystem, believing in the philosophy of Steve Jobs: make the best product, people will line up to buy it. We are committed to give the best Cricketing experience to consumers. Insha Allah if we’re able to do that, financially we’ll be able to survive.

Have you signed any deals with mobile operators?
All of them. Our content is available, and will be available on all mobile operators, including Uninor, Idea, MTS, Aircel, Reliance Communications.

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— Updated: IPL Supports Rights Holders; vRock Bags IPL Mobile Rights
— vRock Bags IPL Mobile Rights; What Are These Rights Worth?
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