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Asia gears up for OTT battle

News, 12 January 2016

SINGAPORE: The advertising industry could be a beneficiary of the developing battle between OTT services across Asia, with Hong Kong-based Viu the latest entrant aiming for a regional presence just a week after US giant Netflix significantly expanded its operations.

Viu, owned by PCCW Media, the multimedia arm of Hong Kong telco PCCW, has just launched in Singapore, with Malaysia, Indonesia and India to follow.

The marketing strategy PCCW uses in Hong Kong has involved television advertising, outdoor and retail alliances, an approach that is expected to be replicated in Singapore.

Janice Lee, managing director of PCCW Media, told Mumbrella that "home ground advantage" would help Viu compete with Netflix.

Its own research, for example, has shown that in Singapore, most OTT viewers prefer Korean content (53%) to Western (36%).

Accordingly, much of the initial content will be popular Korean drama, sourced from leading broadcasters in that country, and which Viu is aiming to make available with English and Chinese subtitles within eight hours of being shown in Korea. In the future it plans to add Japanese and Chinese content.

Viu is up against the behemoth that is Netflix. Announcing its expansion into a further 130 markets, CEO Reed Hastings last week declared: "you are witnessing the birth of a new global internet TV network".

And while Netflix has added service in Arabic, Korean and Chinese dialects to the 17 languages already supported, the only content available to consumers in all markets is its own original Western programming.

At this stage Netflix could corner the regional market for English language content, leaving other OTT providers to fight for share in local language content. There are around ten SVOD services in Thailand, including iFlix, an early pretender to dominance of internet TV in Southeast Asia.

Pricing will also be important – iFlix's lowest subscription in Malaysia is around one quarter that of Netflix.

Whatever the outcome, Neflix is currently recruiting marketers to help build its presence across the region and has also retained PR and social agencies.

"More players in the OTT market is a clear indication of the rising demand from users, especially the millennial generation which increasingly want to access their video entertainment on mobile devices," said Lee.

Data sourced from Mumbrella, The Star, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff