Mar. 06 2019 — Over-the-top video in the Asia-Pacific has been rapidly evolving as OTT players continue to learn and understand the landscape. Industry experts who participated in the Asia Video Industry Association OTT Summit 2019, held February 20 in Singapore, emphasized the importance of relevant content and adaptability of OTT players, particularly in finding the right business model.
According to Media Partners Asia's Vice President Aravind Venugopal, most OTT players that entered the region in 2016 — citing Netflix Inc., HOOQ and iflix — primarily offered a subscription service, whereas PCCW Media Ltd's Viu provided ad-supported content. He said that a year after, each one was trying to figure out what revenue model would work best. It was at that time that sachet pricing, transactional video-on-demand and ad-supported content became more prevalent.
As for 2018, it was said that OTT players moved toward paths through which monetization could continue to grow, and advertising video-on-demand had to be maximized. Venugopal cited that in one of Media Partners Asia's studies, online video platforms that were more ad-focused came out on top. China players such as iQIYI Inc., Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s Tencent Video and Youku Tudou Inc. are able to monetize consumers by adding sachet pricing, as well as allowing customers to purchase magazines or books, or any other offering that would make them stay on the service.
As more OTT services enter the region, finding the most ideal business model to retain and grow viewership can be a challenge. Panelists who were part of the "AVOD vs SVOD vs TVOD: Finding the Right Business Model" discussion, however, agreed there really is not any right model — it is yet to be discovered as OTT players learn more about their respective areas of operation.
Services will have to adapt and should be open to evolving content offerings based on consumers, while also taking regulatory policies into consideration.
In the case of HOOQ, CTO Michael Fleshman highlighted that the company is moving toward using a freemium model, through which consumers may eventually no longer need to register on the site. The OTT player is also trying to maintain simpler packages, with free content very much accessible for everyone.
He also said that HOOQ was initially worried about cannibalizing the subscription video-on-demand business, but as it turns out, engagement is still doing well.
HOOQ recently added linear channels to its offering, and Fleshman emphasized that the OTT service is not shifting but expanding its service so customers will not feel the need to go somewhere else to watch linear channels.
When global OTT player Netflix entered Asia in 2016, it had an international playbook in hand, which made collaborating with local operators a crucial step in learning more about the region. Subscription payment was one of its main concerns and having local partners became beneficial in addressing this.
When asked how the company felt about competitors and what its competitive advantage was in the Asia-Pacific region, Tony Zameczkowski, Netflix's vice president of business development in Asia, said the company sees competition as a good thing.
He also said Netflix's competitive advantage is its platform, content, marketing and partnership. In terms of platform, Zameczkowski elaborated that Netflix provides a "hyper-personalized" service capable of providing recommendations and personalizing the customer's content library.
In terms of content, Zameczkowski acknowledged that the OTT player's local content offering was initially weak. Soon after acquiring various licensing content from producers, however, Netflix started producing original content. The company will continue to invest in relevant titles. In relation to marketing the service, Zameczkowski said that Netflix banks on its titles, part of its promotional strategy.
Partnering with telcos was also very instrumental in establishing Netflix's presence in the region. Likewise, partnering with device manufacturers was important — a different approach for the company, as the Netflix app would normally be included on most devices in U.S. and European markets.