This story appears in the October 2020 issue of Television Asia Plus.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has got everyone staying at home. With movement limited, the television screen has become a quick escape from the reality that this virus is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Before the pandemic, traditional TV, broadcast, print media, and pay-TV platforms were popular among Asian consumers. According to the leading analytics company GlobalData, the Asia Pacific region closed 2019 with a total of 772.1 million pay-TV accounts. China and India are the largest pay-TV markets in the region with an estimated 394.2 million and 181.5 million accounts, respectively, at the end of 2019. Collectively, the two countries accounted for 74.6% of the total pay-tv accounts in the Asia Pacific region in 2019. 

Moving forward, GlobalData predicted that the total number of pay-TV accounts in the region will grow in the period between 2019 and 2023, reaching 798.6 million accounts by the end of 2023. However, GlobalData said that they expect pay-TV adoption will decline in some of the most growing markets such as Singapore, Australia, and Vietnam, as a result of substituting traditional pay-TV subscriptions for OTT video platforms.

How Asia is tuning in

Hrushikesh Mahananda, a Senior Analyst of Telecoms Market Data and Intelligence at GlobalData shared that TV and broadcast media were popular among consumers across the region in the first few months of the pandemic. He said, “News channels and informative programs were the prime factors driving an increase in TV viewership. Indoor TV viewing of free content experienced higher adoption rates among consumers.” Hrushikesh added that despite this, traditional TV viewing is facing tough challenges during COVID-19 in terms of a lack of fresh content. 

Now that we are several months into the pandemic, the internet has become the main source of medium to explore the digital world. Consumers are rapidly adjusting to the world of digital reality and are shifting to OTT video and live TV content streaming. Also, OTT consumption has increased at a greater pace during the pandemic. Hrushikesh pointed out that OTT service providers are offering a diverse range of content across multiple languages and producing original TV content has been a major hit among consumers in the Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, pay-TV operators are adding existing services with OTT video offerings.

OTT will continue to transform the way content is consumed in the Asia Pacific region as users are willing to pay for OTT platforms. Hrushikesh explained, “OTT players offer a wide variety of content, thus creating an attractive experience for consumers. The increase of the OTT video has taken a toll on the traditional pay-TV industry in the region, and it has changed the way consumers view the content as they can now watch programmes whenever they want, by streaming them ‘live’ or downloading them for later viewing.”

How the pandemic is transforming Asian viewing habits

At the onset of the spread of COVID-19 in the early months of 2020, governments across the Asia Pacific have implemented lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease. With more people staying at home, it is without a doubt that the pandemic has created a significant transformation in consumer behaviour in terms of streaming and viewing habits across the region.

An example of this is a shift in viewing habits and preferences leading to access in multiple screens and devices at the same time. Hrushikesh said, “Consumers in the Asia Pacific region are gradually shifting to video-on-demand (VOD) services (OTT viewing), spending more screen time on online platforms to browse content during the pandemic which would benefit the media and entertainment players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and many others, driving new subscriber additions.” 

“With COVID-19 expanding across the globe, staying updated about current news and information is of utmost importance, where consumers are spending and engaging more time in visiting and accessing some local news programming and national TV channels provided by ad-supporting Video-on-Demand (VOD) services,” Hrushikesh said.

In addition to this, OTT media platforms have become more popular during the pandemic, but mostly among the younger generation as kids and teens spend more time indoors. Hrushikesh added, “The increasing popularity of live streaming is taking over younger viewers in Asia. There will be a shift in digital consumption as more people opt for video streaming platforms which offer a mix of on-demand labeled and live content. Live streaming focused on niche groups like gaming are gaining popularity and attracting investments.” 

Read part two here.