As we reach its halfway point, 2016 has been and continues to be a landmark year for online video in Asia. Netflix kicked it off by blowing us all away with their global launch announcement at CES. Established local operators are rising one-by-one to launch their own offerings, packaged with their linear services and/or as a stand-alone. Regional Netflix-like services, such as iFlix, Hooq and CatchPlay, are making lots of noise in our backyards. But is this really “it”? Are these services successful today? Do consumers in Asia have a full bouquet of OTT offerings with the latest and greatest content and standards?
I think the categorical answer to these questions is NO. We are definitely still at the very early stages of the OTT invasion and takeover of the media industry. However, I would like to point out two areas where today’s offering is fairly mature, and quite frankly, as a consumer, I am content and satisfied with it.
Asia is the Playground For Niche Content
Why? Because Asia in itself is all about being niche. As a continent with a few dozen countries, many languages, different cultures and all kinds of entertainment preferences - Asia demands niche content.
OTT services such as Primetime in Thailand are proving it to be very difficult for their multi-national peers to compete with their local content deals and overall country-specific savviness. Even within a particular country, we’ve previously examined how The Viral Fever is shaking up the Indian market with its highly rated original web-exclusive shows. TVF is targeting India’s millennials (a mere 75% of the sub-continents 400 million internet users), who are bored by the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional content in the country.
Another niche vertical, that speaks to many of us, is sports. Sports fans in Asia today will by far have an easier time following their favorite sport or team online than on linear TV or print media. As a mixed martial arts (MMA) fan, I am subscribed to the UFC Fight Pass OTT service, and occasionally catch a pay-per-view live event on the regional promotion ONE Championship's website. How’s that for niche?
Video Has Reshaped the Publishing Industry
BroadcastAsia, the premier broadcast industry event in the region, had a surprising turnout of print publishers this year. As we know, in Asia we’ve been playing a bit of catch-up when it comes to print transitioning to online, but the gap is actually not that big anymore.
Star Media Group of Malaysia, which late last year launched TheStarTV.com, is an excellent example of a traditional print publisher that has evolved to a broadcast-like model. While their print publication has a circulation of nearly 300,000, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to their online followers. TheStarTV.com is the most viewed local news portal in Malaysia and they are producing dozens of videos every day.
Print publishers across the region are elevating their game. According to a recent Reuters Institute study, 79% of publishers stated plans to increase investment of online video in 2016, while 54% see online video as a top priority. Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) Straits Times is another great example of a local publisher that has recently invested in modernizing their approach by making video an integral component of their reporting. The results are not surprising - increased time on site and growth in page views per visitor.
So, What’s the Current Status of Online Video in Asia?
Media companies in Asia are still playing the catch-up game. But in specific verticals, such as sports and news, we’re not that far behind. The consumer who knows what he or she wants to watch is likely to find it. The experience of having that content available on your phone, tablet, desktop and connected TV is pretty awesome if you ask me.