Suchada Supakan of i-dac Bangkok examines the boom in online VDO streaming services and what it means for brands and advertisers eyeing the Thai market.

While Netflix has become a family member in Thai urbanite households over the past five years, the recent arrival of Disney+ in July is heating up the competition and becoming the talk of the town.

With the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, Thai lockdown audiences have accelerated the demand for online VDO streaming services, which includes these two global brands and other local and international players.

This booming entertainment ecosystem is predicted to shift the dynamics of advertising in Thailand in the near future. Getting to know the online streaming VDO audiences will soon become vital for advertisers to shape their marketing efforts. But will online streaming advertising replace traditional TV advertising?

'Glocal' partners

Thai audiences have adapted quickly to new entertainment technologies and now have access to a wide variety of content that suit every lifestyle and interest.

The partnership between AIS and Disney+ is an excellent example of a collaboration between local and global video subscription services and has already seen a good response from Thai viewers. Such a partnership could be the best way to work with major online streaming video services as it offers lower-risk opportunities for Thai brands compared to investing in a branded-content sponsorship on a content platform.

However, most Thai viewers still consume entertainment on free video platforms, which gives brands plenty of options to connect with audiences through video advertising on OTT services such as Line TV, iQiyi and Viu.

The world loves online VDO streaming

An enormous increase in global online streaming VDO subscribers is forecast in 2025.

Netflix will soon hit saturation, while Disney+ is expected to be the new favourite with its unparallel collection of “hit” content.

  • 62% increase in online streaming VDO subscribers from 715 million in 2020 to 1,161 million in 2025 (Statista, Digital TV News, Sept 2020).
  • In 2020, 201.18m Netflix subscribers vs 82.34m Disney+ subscribers – 119m more Netflix subscribers than Disney+ (Statista, Digital TV Research, Feb 2021).
  • In 2026, 286m Netflix subscribers vs 294m Disney+ subscribers) – 8m more Disney+ subscribers than Netflix (Statista, Digital TV Research, Feb 2021).

In China, OTT or over-the-top platforms – providing television and film content over the internet on top of traditional TV programmes – will gain the highest penetration in APAC with iQiyi and Tencent becoming the top two OTT platforms in 2025 (Statista, Broadband TV News, March 2020).

Top three in over-the-top

In APAC, China has the biggest number of OTT subscribers at 426 million, followed by India at 136 million and South Korea with 36.2 million.

Thailand is ranked seventh with 6.6 million subscribers.

In 2025, top 5 OTT services are forecast to be:

  1.  iQiyi – 101 million
  2. Tencent – 99.6 million
  3. Youku Tudou – 34.99 million
  4. Netflix – 34.29 million
  5. Disney – 15.47 million

What this means for brands is that they have to watch out for the global expansion of major Chinese online streaming VDO platforms.

This could lead to more online advertising and content marketing opportunities for Thai marketers to reach domestic or international audiences.

VDO obsession

Thai consumers are obsessed with online streaming VDO but not everyone is willing to pay for it.

Online streaming VDO subscriptions are relatively new for Thais but they have become popular among the modern generation of urbanites, ranging from Gen Z to Gen X, with middle- to upper-class income.

Yet nearly 60% do not pay for subscriptions, with today’s urbanites in the lower- to middle-class income group forming the majority of viewers who prefer not to pay (GWI, Q1-2021).

Paid subscribers
  • Age – 29% > 16–24 years old, 26% > 25–34 years old, 26% > 35–44 years old
  • Income – 67% middle to upper class
  • Area – 63% urban
Unpaid subscribers (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Age – 30% > 16–24 years old, 22% > 25–34 years old, 35% > 35–44 years old
  • Income – 69% lower to middle class
  • Area – 51% urban, 31% suburban

According to a July 2021 i-dac survey, Thais are budget-smart subscribers – 44% are subscription sharers with friends and acquaintances, with 53% sharing one account between four to five people.

Only 37% are solo subscribers, while 63% paid for only one or two online streaming-VDO services and 42% paid just 100-300 Thai Baht per month.

When friends are unavailable, why not strangers?

Through the online community, complete strangers come together to share the subscription fees and enjoy a wider variety of content offered by the online streaming services. 

Students and young people with a limited monthly budget appear to make up most of this group of viewers.

One of them said, "I really wanted to watch the programs on that platform but since my friends' packages were all fully booked, I had to share new package fees with strangers from the social community group." (Online consumers' voice, July 2021)

And loyalty does not appear to be a trait of such viewers. Their view is that they pay for what “free TV” cannot offer and will cancel the subscription if the content is not satisfying.

Top reasons for subscribing to online streaming VDO services (i-dac survey, July 2021):

  • 79% look for a variety of contents;
  • 63% crave for something different;
  • 62% addicted to series;
  • 60% watch ad-free contents.

Top reasons for cancelling a subscription (i-dac survey, July 2021):

  • Outdated content – 62%;
  • Ads are shown – 51%;
  • Content isn’t worth the money – 48%.

The majority of viewers would describe themselves as entertainment addicts, according to a July 2021 i-dac survey. When asked why they watch online streaming VDO content, 71% said it was to relieve stress while 67% said they enjoy entertaining content.

As for their favourite genres, they are: comedy (21%), drama (19%), superhero & sci-fi (13%), crime & detective (12%), and cartoon & anime (8%).

What it means for brands

Brands should look at advertising opportunities from online VDO streaming services such as Viu and iQiyi. Both offer quality reach to Thai entertainment-technology adopters, with their viewership expected to grow exponentially in the near future. 

What’s in

Netflix is winning the hearts of Thai urbanites, whereas Disney+ Hotstar is the rising star with an exceptional growth forecast.

According to the i-dac survey from July 2021, Netflix was No. 1 in terms of over-the-top VDO viewership with 96%, followed by Line TV (63.2%), Viu (58.1%) and Disney+ Hotstar (49.7%).

  • Free subscriptions
  • Free subscriptions, but paid-for premium content available
  • Paid subscriptions

Smart choice

To access OTT, Thais’ favourite device is the smartphone, with 86% of Thai OTT viewers using a mobile device.

In fact, Thailand is the country with the highest smartphone use when it comes to accessing OTT.

  1. Thailand – 86%
  2. India – 85%
  3. Saudi Arabia – 79%
  4. The Philippines – 78%
  5. Taiwan – 76%

What it means for brands

Brands can leverage international platforms such as VIU or iQiyi to get incremental reach from traditional TV media investment. Given that some OTT services are accessed via “connected TV”, brands can utilise this touchpoint to connect with their consumers. 

While the content of the major local connected TV brands is not as popular as the paid streaming VDO services, learning the user profiles of these connected TV devices – especially when accessing via smartphone – will refine your audience segmentations, as these devices cover a wide variety of platforms, including popular international ones. TV is not going anywhere, it is going everywhere!

Getting to know Thai online streaming VDO audiences

As mentioned from the start, knowing online streaming VDO audiences will soon become vital for advertisers to shape their marketing efforts and catch up with Thai entertainment-technology adopters.

Below are the viewer profiles.

  1. Netflix: The world socialiser

Modern urbanites who are always open to new things and keep abreast of happenings around the world. They love to share new information with others and are selective about the content they watch.

Who they are

  • Male and female urbanites Aged 16–44 (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Middle- to upper-class income (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Heavy watchers, spending an average of 2–3 hours a day on Netflix (i-dac survey, July 2021)
What they do
  • Global content variety seekers (i-dac survey, July 2021)
  • 67% watch reality shows
  • 66% are entertained by movies
  • 64% enjoy Netflix Original Series
  • Physically and virtually socialising
  • Anywhere, anytime
  • Wisely budgeting to pay for quality
  1. Disney+ Hotstar: Wonderland dreamers & family-oriented

Disney enthusiasts who grew up with Disney stories and parents who watch TV with their young kids as part of their daily routine.  

Who they are

  • Male and female urbanites aged 16–44 with middle- to upper-class income (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Moderate to heavy watchers, spending an average of 2–3 hours a day on Disney+ Hotstar (i-dac survey, July 2021)
What they do
  • Disney-influenced, stories and characters
  • Family-oriented, love to spend quality time with family
  • Anywhere, anytime
  • Willing to pay for quality content

According to Online Consumers’ Voice, one viewer said, “My princess (baby) wants to be Elsa, so I watch it with her every day.”

Another shared that she has “loved Beauty & The Beast since my childhood – I can watch it again and again on the Disney channel”.

A third viewer confessed: “I am a big fan of Disney. I have been to every Disneyland in the world.”

  1. Viu: Korean-romance addicts

Mass young female urbanites who are addicted to Korean romance and K-pop. 

Who they are

  • 16–24-year-old female urbanites (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Lower- to middle-class income (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Moderate watchers, spending an average of 2–3 hours a day on VIU (i-dac survey, July 2021)
  • Passionate about K-pop
What they do
  • Explore different cultures and languages
  • Korean content is a stress reliever
  • Anywhere, anytime
  • Price-sensitive; only pay for what they love.

One such viewer said, “I pay for Viu Premium because I do not want to miss any episodes of my favourite series Mr. Queen.” (Online consumers’ voice, July 2021)

  1. iQiyi: Chinese love story fans and Asian variety show fanatics

Young to middle-aged females who are into Asian content.   

Who they are

  • 16–44-year-old female urbanites (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Lower- to upper-class income (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Moderate watchers, spending an average of 30 mins to one hour a day on iQiyi (i-dac survey, July 2021)
What they do
  • Their favourites are Chinese TV series, followed by Korean and Thai TV shows
  • Explore different cultures and languages
  • Anywhere, anytime
  • Price-sensitive; willing to pay for up-to-date content

Online Consumers’ Voice reported one such fan as saying, "I love Lisa Blackpink so much, so I need to catch up on all the shows that she performs in real time as quickly as possible."

Another said: “I am a fan of Chinese fiction and iQiyi meets my preference.”

  1. Line TV: Local-content devotees

Young to middle-aged females, with the majority from rural areas who consume Thai content when they have time, as well as young female urbanites who are addicted to Thai romance series.

Who they are

  • 16–44-year-old females, with the majority living in the rural areas (GWI, Q1-2021)
  • Light watchers spending an average of only one hour a day or less on Line TV (i-dac survey, July 2021)
What they do
  • Enjoy watching Thai TV dramas and sit-coms (i-dac survey, July 2021)
  • Catch up with re-run TV shows
  • Addicted to Thai romance
  • Anywhere, anytime
  • Price-sensitive; free access only

One such viewer was quoted by Online Consumers’ Voice as saying, “I am addicted to Y-Series. I am in love with Billkin & PP and I watched the series on Line TV.”

What it means for brands

Enable data-driven ad targeting and optimise relevant creatives to reach your audience. Your TV viewers can be segmented based on the online streaming VDO services they access and the user profile of each platform viewer also guides you to make the right creative that will catch their attention.


In an era where our audiences can opt for ad-free TV services, product placement in the original series of the platform where your consumers are will soon be the way in.

Keep your eye on the very first Thai original series on Disney+ Hotstar – the famous Eng and Chang Siamese twins series could set the direction for Thai advertisers to secure your brand presence on the giant global platform.

This article is part of an on-going series with i-dac Bangkok conducted by the Digital Strategic Planning unit, based on their monthly i-dac Digital Flash series, featuring insights into trends in Thailand.

i-dac Thailand is a premier digital agency specialising in performance media, branded content, and data marketing.