How is Asia-Pacific absorbing the Smart TV concept?
In developed markets such as Japan, Korea and Australia where Smart TVs are commonly used, they’re following the trends of their Western counterparts. For the advanced markets, Smart TV adoption is like Europe and the U.S., so they’ll just keep increasing. I don’t think it has reached 50% mark yet, but they will keep growing. In some markets, especially in Southeast Asia and South Asia, which are emerging markets in the developing world, they are seeing an average of 10-15% penetration now. So, it will take years, perhaps another 7-10 years. Affordability is one key issue. A most TV sets are very expensive for people in Southeast and South Asia. The functionality of being smart has yet to become setting point for many households in the region. It’s about educating the public, but it’s also about making the smart functionality really interesting and attractive to consumers in the region, so it’ll help with adoption.
Sharing devices – do you foresee Asia picking up as swiftly as Europe or U.S.?
It depends on the device type. Smart TV’s, game consoles and streaming media players –for these devices, family sharing is common because one family would normally purchase just one device. For tablets, this is happening quite often as well, although a household may have more than one tablet device. For smartphones, that’s not the case as smartphones are becoming more and more affordable and it’s a “must have” personalised device. Smartphone sharing is not very common, even in the least developed markets, but tablet sharing is common in both developing and developed markets. It’s just they overlap and the level of device sharing may vary from market to market. The more developed markets will see less sharing activities while the more sharing activities would happen in developing markets.
Where is the OTT market heading?
OTT is starting to become the next “big thing” in the region but most providers at this point are still trying to figure out what they can get out of OTT. OTT has actually been around for a long time but the concept is just beginning to become a buzz in recent years as Netfl ix has made considerable successes internationally. A lot of local players are thinking about getting OTT subscribers in the size similar to that of a pay-TV traditional multi-channel service. The problem with OTT is that it is still trying to find the best business models for them to be profitable. Which is a better model – freemium / programmatic? A simple subscription model by month or year would generally work for more markets, but in some markets like China, advertising-based OTT is quite a big thing. Then again, we’ve also seen good take-ups in a subscription based OTT. It also depends on consumer behaviour and consumer mindset as some are not interested to pay for online video. This happens in China, Taiwan, Korea and even in Japan because they have access to ample free-to-air (FTA) and pay-TV services. If they can watch a lot of interesting content for free then they would just refrain from paying for additional OTT services.
What does your crystal ball say about the next 3 years?
For huge markets such as China specifically, I’m seeing a lot of congestion – there are too many players for the same customers. There has to be consolidation which is already happening. But for markets in Southeast and South Asia, that’s not the case. They have local players but even the early birds are still trying to gain subscribers from scratch. The markets are just beginning to materialise. Many factors contribute to the development. Broadband is crucial, either via wireless or fixed. In Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Thailand or Philippines, fixed broadband is still something that’s not quite there yet to support OTT. Hence, many OTT activities have to be on mobile. It’s a question of affordability as well. If you want to access OTT, you must either have a mobile or a fixed broadband subscription. For those who don’t have broadband, they’ll need that first before subscribing to an OTT. There’s also the additional cost of OTT subscription. When add up, it might not be cheaper than the traditional pay-TV service offering.
How is the pay-TV penetration in Asia-Pacific?
Generally, it’s growing all the time. Except for a few very saturated markets like Hong Kong and Singapore, where it remains fl at, pay-TV will grow in the next 10-15 years, in almost every country in the Asia-Pacific.
Do you see competition between pay-TV and OTT?
Yes, there will be some competition for sure but there can also be partnership. Subscription OTT players can be on a pay-TV platform to help them acquire subscribers, because the pay-TV operators already have amassed their subscriber base and that might help the OTT providers. On the other hand, if they continue to compete for content at a later stage, the pay-TV operators might not want to carry the OTT platforms as part of their pay-TV offering.
Do you think it’s healthy for an operator to carry both the OTT and pay-TV platforms?
That’s a tough one right now. Cannibalisation is definitely one thing they have to consider carefully when launching an OTT service. But operators who have already launched their OTT service are in the mindset that the OTT arm is about acquiring new subscribers who will never pay for pay-TV. In this sense, there is no cannibalisation. But existing pay-TV subscribers who want a cheaper and less dynamic service with more focused video service might decide to cancel their pay-TV subscription in order to move to OTT. Cannibalisation may happen, but it may be worth the sacrifice because if the OTT service can attract a larger subscriber base, then what do the pay-TV operators have to lose.
What is happening to the linear TV market with new services coming in play?
The linear TV will heavily depend on content such as sports or movie rights after theatrical release. These content will still be released on the premium networks first which are linear, before being made available on OTT and DVD. Live sports is always the right type of content for linear. Linear sports will definitely remain together with news which will do better on this platform. All general entertainment such as kids, documentaries and others will stay put. These types of contents may see a combination of both linear and on demand being made available at the same time to consumers. Linear content may not be as popular as content that is time sensitive, but it will still serve as a family entertainment platform. Linear TV will stay for sure, although there can be some impacts from on demand, OTT and others.
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