The issue of legacy—coping with it, or not having it at all—was a recurring theme at the Asia Pacific Video Operators Summit (APOS) in Bali last week, as the heads of major global and regional media companies convened to discuss the rapidly changing content ecosystem in the region.
In his opening remarks Wednesday morning, Vivek Couto, executive director and co-founder of Media Partners Asia, which organizes the summit, noted that the rapid evolution of business models for online video and the fate of legacy pay-TV systems are among the key themes reshaping the Asian media business. Of the $42 billion in new video revenues (free, pay and online) coming to the AsiaPac industry over the next five years, 67 percent will be from digital, 32 percent from pay TV and 1 percent from free TV. Excluding China, it’s $13 billion in incremental revenue, of which 54 percent is from pay TV and 40 percent from digital. Digital’s share of new dollars will vary heavily by market, from 20 percent in India up to 100 percent in Japan and Australia.
Couto highlighted wireless broadband’s “explosive growth,” the transformation of the subscription ecosystem—“effectively you won’t have channels or OTT, you’ll just have content on different platforms”—the rise in SVOD subs, the growing importance of telcos in the video sector and the shift towards premium local and regional content, especially Korean, on OTT in Southeast Asia.
Couto’s introductory remarks kicked off a slew of heavy hitter keynotes in the Wednesday morning session. Andy Bird, the chairman of Walt Disney International, weighed in on consumer-facing brands and local content creation. Bill Holmes, Netflix’s global head of business development, and the platform’s VP of content acquisitions, Robert Roy, discussed the company’s international progress and content strategy. Gerhard Zeiler, the president of Turner International, talked about the importance of local content investments and his faith in channel brands. Robert Kyncl, chief business officer at YouTube, told APOS delegates about the company’s rapidly growing base of users and revenues in Asia. Brian Sullivan, the president and COO of the digital consumer group at Fox Network Group, discussed the company’s digital presence, including its new U.S. app encompassing all its brands. And Kevin MacLellan, the chairman of global distribution and international at NBCUniversal, discussed the rollout of the reality SVOD service Hayu and his “fewer, bigger, better” approach to the company’s channels business. That was all before 11 a.m.
Later in the pre-lunch sessions, delegates heard from a wide range of speakers, among them Ernest Cru of Globe Telecom, the Filipino telco that has made a slew of high-profile partnerships with content and OTT providers, among them Disney and Netflix; Peter Tonagh of Foxtel; Amazon’s AsiaPac content head James Farrell; Viacom’s David Lynn and BBC Worldwide’s Paul Dempsey. The afternoon, meanwhile, was mostly about India with representatives from all of the country’s major players: Zee, Network18, Amazon, Balaji Telefilms, Hotstar, Tata Sky and others.
Highlights of the Thursday schedule, meanwhile, included Hosi Simon, global general manager of VICE Media, discussing the company’s international expansion; Trace’s Olivier Laouchez on growth prospects for that brand; 88rising’s Jaeson Ma on the success of his Asian content platform; and Donald Tang of Tang Media Partners on the future of Chinese investments in Hollywood.
OTT was one of the defining themes of the week; in addition to Netflix and Amazon, sessions featured executives from regional upstarts iflix, HOOQ and Viu (Tribe and Tonton were also on site, and all of them had branded T-shirts), and dominant Australian player Stan, with Mike Sneesby discussing the crucial role played by original shows for the platform. The OTT players dominated the news feeds too. Buzz-worthy platform iflix, which recently hired former Netflix exec Sean Carey as its chief content officer, unveiled its local programming plans for Southeast Asia on the eve of APOS. It also went live in the Middle East and Africa last week. Netflix began the week with news of its licensing deal with Korean broadcasting group JTBC and ended it with the formal announcement of its pact with iQiyi for a selection of its original series to air in China. Rival Chinese OTT platform Youku last week committed to its own version of NBCUniversal’s Saturday Night Live. PCCW’s Viu announced that it now has 6 million monthly active users across Asia and the Middle East and that it is embarking on an originals drive for Korean, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian productions. Eying opportunities in OTT, Viacom International Media Networks said it is bringing an MTV-branded subscription based linear channel to Hulu in Japan this summer. The Malaysian OTT platform tonton is headed to Singapore following a deal with Singtel. And HOOQ made several announcements about its new Asian originals, including shows and movies from the Philippines, Indonesia and Korea and the HOOQ Filmmakers Guild to fund pilots from talented filmmakers across the region.
Asian content was certainly a hot topic throughout the week for “traditional” platforms as well, especially Korean shows. E! Asia, for example, said it is adding two new Korean shows to its lineup. Astro is partnering with CJ E&M on the co-production of original IP for the ASEAN region (the Malaysian pay-TV operator also announced partnerships elsewhere in Asia and a tie-up with Turner for Warner TV). Endemol Shine Group entered into an international co-development partnership with the Seoul-based JTBC. The pay-TV channel tvN Movies expanded into Malaysia. And Sony Pictures Television Networks’ entertainment channel ONE announced it will premiere the brand-new drama My Sassy Girl at the same time as its Korean release this month.
Other key announcements during the week included BBC First arriving in India via a deal with Zee Café, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific inking two mobile deals to target millennials in China and Japan, and new carriage deals for the Asian eSports channel eGG.
Outside of the conference sessions and upbeat news releases, conversation among delegates after hours—and there were a lot of parties, capped off by HBO Asia’s 25th anniversary bash featuring Belinda Carlisle—focused on concerns about how OTT will impact the traditional pay-TV ecosystem, the fate of channels in the skinny bundle era, changing consumer tastes and, for some services reliant on day-and-date U.S. fare, fears about a potential writers’ strike in Hollywood. The numbers, per MPA, are bullish, with the AsiaPac video ecosystem set to be worth about $160 billion in 2022. How to capture, and keep, a share of that pie in a rapidly changing environment is something that everyone in the system, from legacy players to upstarts, is still trying to figure out.