Describing itself as Latin America’s largest streaming audiotainment platform, Ubook has just obtained R$ 20 million (US $4.9 million) in new funding from CONFRAPAR, a fund manager for technology companies in Brazil, Europe and the US as the Latin America audiobook scene steps up a gear.
The news comes less than a month after Storytel launched in Brazil and Colombia as part of a pan-Latin America expansion by the Sweden-based company.
The Brazil and Colombia launches came almost a year after Storytel first arrived in Latin America with a launch in Mexico.
By contrast Ubook has been up and running in Brazil for close to five years now, and has long since extended its reach across Latin America, with operations in Europe, Oceania and Africa.
Ubook’s dropdown menu of served countries covers Brazil, UK, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Peru, Panama, Jamaica, Ghana and Papua New Guinea.
While some of these are clearly no more than a token presence right now – Papua New Guinea has less than one million people online that might avail themselves of Ubook’s services – this 17-country reach puts it just behind Storytel in global market terms.
Subscriber numbers? Flávio Osso isn’t sharing the latest numbers (Storytel is legally obliged to, and rivals Nextory and Bookbeat do so at this time mainly to show they can compete with Storytel) but back in February when reporting on Ubook’s plans for an IPO we noted Reuters quoting Ubook as having eight-digit annual revenue, 15,000 titles and over 6 million subscribers.
That remains unconfirmed, but 6 million subscribers, if accurate, would dwarf Storytel’s and Scribd’s one million subscribers each. As for the eight digit revenue, Reuters did not make clear if this was Brazilian reals, but ten million BRL would equate to just shy of US $2.5 million.
I’ve asked Flávio Osso for further clarification and will update this post if any further details are conveyed.
So what does this new funding and the pending IPO funding mean for Ubook?
Back in February when the IPO was first proposed, Osso was looking to raise between US $8-$15 million. There’s no indication as to whether that value has been revised.
The Ubook press release quotes Osso as saying,
With the IPO, Ubook will expand its operations to other countries through organic movements and company acquisitions in markets it considers strategic. Investment in the acquisition and production of original content is another important pillar of Ubook’s strategy, started in the second quarter of 2019, giving users access to a new section of the app that includes original documentaries and series: stand-up shows, interviews and biographies, among others.
Ubook is currently considered the largest audio streaming platform in Latin America (both in catalog size, number of active users and billing). The combination of these moves (IPO + investment in new content types) comes to consolidate and reinforce the company’s positioning as the world’s largest audiotainment service, delivering users all types of audio content (books, series & documentaries, podcasts, real-time news, magazines, newspapers, comedy shows, etc).
Ubook reports over 450 hours of content per month are produced at Ubook Studios, with nine new studios opening this month (including one dedicated to video) taking the total studio count to 16.
The expanded studio setup will, says Ubook, allow 1500 hours of content per month to be produced in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
All this comes after a report on TNPS back in April exploring Ubook’s ambitions.
While elsewhere on TNPS Ubook’s Viviane Maurey, at Brazil’s BIG conference, explored the rich, 360-degree experience digital offers.
But let me end this post with reference to Sweden’s trade journal Boktugg.
While I’ve been fighting West African end-of-rainy-season distractions, Boktugg’s Sölve Dahlgren had been in touch with Ubook’s CFO Eduardo Albano asking the questions I’d yet to get around to.
Ubook’s reaction to the arrival of Storytel in Brazil, for example.
Albana explained to Boktugg,
For us, it is good to have a new competitor [like Storytel] because it clearly shows that we are on the right track. Establishing a competitor is the best signal as it proves that there is demand for audio books and entertainment via audio. There is a bigger market to explore than there are players and produced titles.
That’s entirely consistent with Osso’s response to news Amazon’s Audible had designs on the Brazilian audiobook market. At the time Osso said,
We have spoken with Amazon and encouraged them to launch Audible here; it is much better to have a 50% market share of a market that is valued at 3 to 4 billion USD than to have 100% share of a market that is valued at 50 million.
But let’s get back to Eduardo Albano, who told Boktugg Ubook is planning eight new market launches.
Three of these are already showing on the Ubook country menu, as per list above – Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
But the new additions are noteworthy, and will expand Ubook’s presence in Oceania beyond the already listed Papua New Guinea. Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Nauru.
In internet user terms these are small markets ranging from 100,000 people online in Samoa, 500,000 in Fiji and 82,000 online in Vanuatu to just 6,000 in Nauru.
It may be Osso sees these micro-markets as worthwhile because by getting in so early and establishing a presence there is little chance any competitor will be left any room to engage.
Not that we should dismiss small markets lightly.
Storytel’s smallest market, Iceland, has only 365,000 online.