Afilias is on an overt campaign to snap up struggling new gTLDs at bargain basement prices.
“In the neighborhood of a dozen” gTLD operators responded seriously to Afilias’ booth at last month’s ICANN meeting in Buenos Aries, (pictured), Afilias chief marketing officer Roland LaPlante told DI in an interview today.
The company could potentially buy up tens of gTLDs over the coming year, LaPlante said.
“If all of these 500 strings with less than 5,000 names in them start looking for a new owner, it’s going to be a pretty active marketplace,” he said.
“There are entrants in the market who either have found the market is not as they expected, or results are not what they need, or for whatever other reason they’re coming to the conclusion this isn’t the business they should be in and they’re looking for options,” LaPlante said.
“There’s been a cold splash of water in the face for a lot of people who didn’t expect it, they’re struggling with relatively low revenues compared to what they might have expected,” he said. “They’re likely to be looking for options.”
Afilias would be happy to take these contracts off their current owners’ hands, for the right price.
“Frankly, we’re not going to be paying huge prices for them,” LaPlante.
“We’ve run into a number of folks who still have fairly inflated opinions of what their string is worth,” he said. “Some of these strings are attractive, but they’re going to need a lot more time to mature.”
Afilias believes that the economies of scale it already has in place would enable it to turn a profit at a much lower registration volume, perhaps under 50,000 names, and that it has the patience and financial strength to wait for its acquisitions to hit those volumes.
“We’re very conservative in our volume estimates,” LaPlante said.
Afilias currently has 26 new gTLDs as back-end and 13 as contracted registry operator.
The company is basically looking for acquisitions where the seller’s looming alternative might be the Emergency Back-End Registry Operator, and where the fees associated with an auction might be a bit too rich.
While LaPlante jokingly compared the proposition to the “We Buy Any Car” business model, he admitted that some registries are less attractive than others.
gTLDs with a lot of restrictions or monitoring would be treated with much more caution — Afilias was not interested in .hiv, which failed to sell at auction recently, for example — and would be skeptical about registries that have given away large numbers of free domains.
“We’d like to pick up strings that have good potential for a profitable amount of volume,” he said.
Afilias quietly sold .meet to Google earlier this year, but LaPlante denied that Afilias is in the business of flipping gTLDs. While he could not get into details, he said the .meet deal was a “special case”.
As we discovered last week, at least eight new gTLDs have changed ownership since signing their registry contracts. A few others have been acquired pre-contracting.
Brewing giant Carlsberg has joined Minds + Machines’ pioneer program for the .beer gTLD, buying 150 brand and generic .beer domains.
M+M said today that football.beer, which is arguably a more British domain than gov.uk, is among Carlsberg’s new portfolio.
The registry said in a press release: “football.beer will help support the company’s far-reaching commitment to the football. Carlsberg is a leading sponsor of UEFA EURO 2016, the Barclays Premier League, and Liverpool Football Club.”
The brewer will also use quality.beer in its marketing.
Trademarks baltika.beer, tuborg.beer, holsten.beer and kronenbourg.beer have also been acquired.
Carlsberg is the fifth-largest brewer in the world and fourth-largest in the UK, with annual global revenue of $9.5 billion.
The .beer gTLD could use the publicity. It has been in general availability since September last year. Today, it has fewer than 7,800 names in its zone file.
How’s this for a high-profile registrant?
A new stage musical, co-written by Blur front-man Damon Albarn, has opened in the UK this week, and it’s named after a new gTLD domain name.
wonder.land is a take on Alice in Wonderland that reportedly “tells the story of a 21st Century teen who immerses herself in a psychedelic online game.”
The production, which is running previews in Manchester until July 12 before transferring to the National Theatre in London this November, is using the domain wonder.land.
.land is a Donuts gTLD with about 13,000 domains in its zone.
Chrome users who search for wonder.land in their browser address bar will be taken to the domain rather than a search results page.
Aruba, the recently anointed .cloud gTLD registry, plans to give away up to 100 free .cloud domains to trademark owners as part of its launch program.
The Italian company also today revealed a rough launch schedule that will see sunrise begin mid-way through the fourth quarter.
Participating in Aruba’s “Pioneer” program will be free for trademark owners with a decent marketing plan, a brand-match domain, and a web site that can go live at the end of September.
Up to 100 domains can be allocated for promotional purposes before sunrise begins, per ICANN rules.
Those looking to grab a generic dictionary word in .cloud “may require further negotiation and incur additional costs”, the registry web site says.
Wannabe pioneers have until August 21 to submit their ideas.
Aruba, which beat Minds + Machines, Symantec, Amazon, Google, CloudNames and Donuts to .cloud at private auction last November, plans to go to general availability early next year.
New gTLD registration volumes failed to live up to ICANN’s expectations by a long, long way in its fiscal 2015.
When ICANN’s FY15 ended on Tuesday, new gTLDs had fewer than 6 million domains in their collective zone files.
That’s just 18% of ICANN’s original early 2014 estimate of 33 million domains and just 39% of its revised March 2015 estimate of 15 million names.
It’s going to be harder to compare future new gTLD performance to ICANN’s projections, as the program enters its second year of live activity.
The organization’s recently published draft fiscal 2016 budget does not have a “total registrations” number to compare to the 15/33 million projection in last year’s budget.
It does, however, predict 12.5 million billable registrar transactions in FY16, which began yesterday.
Billable registrar transactions include renewals and transfers, however, so ICANN is not saying that there will be 12.5 million extant new gTLD registrations this time next year.