Last week, BlackBerry announced an update to BBM, which added new features for all users, including BBM Channels to the Android and iPhone subscriber base, something core BlackBerry users have had access to (in beta) several months now.
BBM Channels are similar to Facebook pages for companies or athletes—things you can subscribe to to keep tabs on stuff you're interested in and chat with others who share those interests. It's a part of BlackBerry's plan to make BBM—which is one of the company's last remaining successful products—to the next level.
For brands and businesses, BlackBerry says that BBM Channels "provides a new way to interact and connect with a highly engaged and targeted mobile audience and build a community around their channel"—AKA, generate potential revenue for BlackBerry through mobile advertising. This is key, given that BBM now has tens of millions of active users across the world's two most popular mobile platforms, iOS and Android.
Some of the bigger brands now using Channels are Coca-Cola, Disney, and TIME. Brands like these with international appeal are crucial for BlackBerry, who relies a lot of emerging markets these days for growth.
Of course, there are plenty of Canadian brands for local patriots to engage with as well: Telus, the Toronto International Film Festival, and Tim Hortons.
Subscriber numbers aren't very big yet: an Olympic Games channel has 58,000 followers, but Disney has fewer than 10,000, for example. However, it's a start. If BlackBerry can make something out of BBM, odds of survival are much greater.