Event Preview: Asia Video Summit

Louis Boswell, the CEO of the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), offers up a look at the highlights for the Asia Video Summit (AVS), which is relocating to Singapore for this year’s edition.

AVIA’s flagship annual conference is moving from Hong Kong to Singapore’s Ritz Carlton Millenia for the 2019 edition from November 4 to 6. “The major reason is the protests in Hong Kong,” Boswell tells World Screen. “It was becoming increasingly clear to us was that no matter what the reality on the ground was, both delegates and speakers were concerned about the situation.”

However, Boswell notes, there are plenty of upsides to moving AVIA’s flagship annual event. Singapore is “home for many of our members,” Boswell notes. “We’re optimistic we’ll get a good turnout. Every cloud has a silver lining. I’m really excited that we’re doing it in Singapore for the first time in eons.”

Under the returning tagline of “The State of the Video Industry,” AVS will explore the major themes at play for those working in the AsiaPac media ecosystem. “The whole goal of the association is to give a state-of-the-union-type summary in terms of where our industry is today. The overarching theme is the evolution of business models. Everybody is moving towards streaming, but depending on what people have as their legacy, the way they approach that is completely different.”

Advertising will also be a key theme, Boswell adds. “As internet penetration and 4G—and soon 5G—penetration across the region grows, access to content is becoming easier than ever before. Subscription penetrations within the pay-TV world only got to a certain level in markets like Indonesia or Thailand. That doesn’t mean the 70 or 80 percent who never subscribed are not watching video—they are. There’s a big question as to how you target that audience and how you curate premium content and how you monetize premium content through advertising.”

As the industry moves more to OTT, “We want to make a specific comparison to the music industry and debate whether that is a valid parallel,” Boswell says. “There are parallels, but we have 15, 20 years of hindsight as well. If we want to avoid going down the same path, we’re in a better position to do so. But we need to debate whether we are actually going down a different path.”

There will also be sessions about the news business, Boswell continues. “News consumption is changing. We spend all our time talking about fake news. The curated news industry, whether they set out to be impartial or to have a viewpoint, play a more important role. There are real questions to ask about how we boost and grow and develop curated news to provide the best level of information to consumers.”

The Summit is just one of AVIA’s many activities throughout the year. The trade body is focused on three pillars, Boswell says: policy, piracy and insights.

On the piracy front, the battle is ongoing, Boswell says. “Piracy is the single biggest issue we have today. The fear is, if we don’t get it under control, then we don’t control our own destiny, our own fate as an industry. It’s a bigger problem today than it ever has been. But at the time, I’m more optimistic about the prospects of dealing with piracy. Because it is so bad, it is so in everybody’s face, things are beginning to change. There’s genuine recognition from governments of the size and scale of the problem, and an increasing willingness to do something about it. We’re encouraged by the direction we’re moving in.”

Promising signs include a copyright amendment act making its way to the Singaporean parliament that would criminalize the sale of illicit streaming devices (ISDs), preloaded set-top-boxes delivering hundreds of channels and thousands of hours of pirated content. In Malaysia, the government process for dealing with pirated sites has been streamlined, Boswell adds. “We’re seeing sites being blocked by ISPs between 24 and 48 hours from a complaint being made. That’s really powerful.”

AVIA is also advocating the use of infringing website lists in markets. “A lot of these pirate sites are supported by legitimate advertising. Those legitimate advertisers don’t know where those ads are going. Having a list, so the ad exchanges know they should not serve ads to these sites, can be very powerful,” Boswell says.

“There’s a lot more to be done on the piracy front. We’ll continue working with governments and educating consumers, and working with intermediaries like e-commerce gateways and payment gateways to educate them about preventing transactions for illegal services.”

Working with governments on policy initiatives is also taking up a lot of time for the AVIA team these days, Boswell says. “We’re at a crucial juncture, because as we move increasingly to the internet being the means of video delivery for our industry, there are questions for governments around how to regulate that. We’re seeing some concerning developments out of markets like Vietnam, where they are mulling the idea of taking the pay-TV regulations and sticking them into streaming video. That would be disastrous. We’re trying to educate governments that this is a difficult transition for the industry. [We need] regulations that are friendly to innovation, so companies can invest in local content, invest in the economies of the markets we operate in; otherwise, they will never reach a fraction of the potential they can. And the ultimate beneficiaries will be the people the government doesn’t regulate, which are the pirates. The message is, don’t put too big a regulatory burden on us. We need governments to have a farsighted, clear-sighted view of how much we can contribute as an industry if we’re given a framework in which to grow and prosper.”

Find out more about attending the Asia Video Summit here.