Helen Sou Talks Viu’s Subscriber, Usage Gains


With its hybrid AVOD and SVOD model, Viu has emerged as Asia’s leading homegrown regional streamer, delivering a mix of top-notch imports alongside a growing slate of original productions. Helen Sou, chief business officer for digital media and Viu Asia at parent company PCCW, shares with TV Asia the strategies driving the platform’s subscriber and usage gains.

TV ASIA: Tell us about Viu’s overall positioning in the AsiaPac streaming landscape.
SOU: Viu is a pan-regional OTT video streaming service that was created in Asia for Asia. Our global scale operation has garnered us extensive coverage across 16 markets. At the same time, we have established deep penetration in local markets through cultivating local fans and like-minded partners that grow with us.

The tremendous growth of our subscriber base—our monthly active users (MAU) grew by 37 percent year-on-year to 49.4 million, and we hit 7 million paid subscribers, a 62 percent year-on-year growth in the first half of 2021—brings us invaluable data and insights into consumer behavior that we need to stay up-to-date on local tastes and to curate quality and diverse content for our audience in each local market. It also guides our content investment strategy and how we should prioritize our resources.

Viu has an extensive ecosystem that allows us to work with over 80 regional and local partners, ranging from telcos, device partners and brands to media networks. We are also a platform for local creators to showcase their creative works to local audiences across the markets that we serve.

A large part of our success comes from our dual revenue model built upon direct subscriptions and partnerships with local players through SVOD and AVOD. This increases the appeal of our service to a diverse customer base across the greater Southeast Asia region, which has a population of over 500 million.

TV ASIA: Tell us about the approach to content acquisitions.
SOU: Viu is the hub of premium Asian content—this is evident in our strong partnerships with leading broadcasters and production houses in Korea, China, Thailand and more. We’ve expanded our offerings to bring fresh and engaging premium Asian entertainment through our volume deals with China’s Huace Film & TV and Huace Croton Media. Viu-ers can catch more than 30 Chinese dramas, including highly raved titles such as Eternal Love of Dream—one of the most-watched dramas on Viu—F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers, A Love So Beautiful, My Amazing Boyfriend 2 and The Brightest Star in the Sky, released late last year. Award-winning and star-studded popular hits such as Eternal Love, The Princess Wei Young, Love O2O, Love and Destiny are also available. Viu brings the largest volume of simulcast Korean dramas to greater Southeast Asia. Aside from partnerships, we also take pride in exclusive rights. With the Korean crime thriller One Ordinary Day, available exclusively on Viu, Viu is determined to bring the best of Asian entertainment to our viewers. From investing in original productions to securing exclusive rights to top Korean drama series, Viu constantly offers enthralling shows with a wide selection of Korean content on one convenient platform for our audiences.

TV ASIA: What role does original content play in your overall lineup?
SOU: We have been investing heavily in our original productions to attract more users while retaining our loyal subscribers. We are currently producing an average of 40 Viu originals this year. These include our Korean Viu originals such as Doom at Your Service, River Where the Moon Rises, Lovers of the Red Sky and the highly anticipated Now, We Are Breaking Up. On top of that, we work with various partners, from broadcasters to industry partners, to bring local content to Viu-ers. In line with the growing popularity of Thai content locally, we’re pleased to share that as part of our continued partnership with leading Thai broadcaster GMMTV, Viu-ers can enjoy a number of fresh and exciting Thai dramas such as Irresistible and The Player. Aside from that, already available on Viu is the drama The Unidentical Twins that will see the reunion of popular on-screen couple Kimberley Anne and James Ma. Our local Viu original Pretty Little Liars in Indonesia has earned wild success across several markets and is returning for a second season in early 2022. Also slated for 2022 is our first Filipino Viu original, Still, a musical set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our popular Thai “Boys’ Love” series Close Friend is also coming back for a second season. Joining the exciting lineup is Ganjil, Malaysia’s third Viu original.

TV ASIA: Does the content differ across the AVOD and SVOD tiers?
SOU: Viu operates on a freemium model. We thrive on a massive, engaged consumer base that has been growing tremendously through working with our local and regional partners in different markets. Our consumer base gives us invaluable data insights, which help us shape our pricing plans and bundles for different customers and our content development plan. Through a detailed study of our consumer data, we can deduce which type of content is appealing and worth investing in and will, in turn, be able to convert users into paid subscribers. This results in an all-rounded, full composition of curated content that drives engagement and monetization. The significant growth in our MAU and paid subscribers and a 40 percent growth in SVOD revenue in the first half of this year have proved our strategy’s success. We have the largest volume of Korean simulcast content, in addition to a range of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and anime titles. We have been investing substantially in Viu originals in Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai and acquiring exclusive rights to hot titles such as the K-drama One Ordinary Day.

TV ASIA: What are Viu’s goals in the year ahead as the market gets more crowded? How are you driving new subs and engagement?
SOU: The dynamic markets of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have shown us great vitality in terms of their large base of young, engaged and tech-savvy audiences who are eager for quality, edgy content. We are also supporting our business partners with innovative solutions that can help them grow—the telco data consumption of Viu users is 60 percent to two times more than the Southeast Asian average. Besides bringing quality content that meets the taste of our audiences, the innovative collaborations with local partners that we have cultivated in these local markets play a pivotal role in driving the growth there. Against this backdrop, we can build new forms of partnerships riding on the distinctive characteristics of these young markets. In Indonesia, for example, Viu has partnered with all the local telcos and is working closely with some of the largest e-commerce players, including Tokpoedia, Shopee and Lazada, to develop business plans and payment systems that can be mutually beneficial. We are also exploring new partnerships, such as one with TelKom IndiHome to provide its consumers with direct access to Viu straight from their set-top box.

In Thailand, we have extended our partnerships with local players such as e-wallets, banks, credit cards and e-commerce. For instance, we are the first OTT player to partner with Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) to expand our paid subscriber base while generating a high volume of sales for SCB through the exclusive perks we offer to millions of its cardholders. We also formed a dynamic partnership with AIS Play, which expands its consumer base and co-produces Viu originals with us.

Focusing on the overall viewing experience and content curation has proven to be the correct direction in these markets, where our audiences value quality localized content. We can localize regional content with almost instantaneous subtitling that is tailored for local audiences. We have also introduced dubbing in local languages for some of the shows streamed in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, which are among our fastest-growing markets. Audience receptiveness toward our service shows that we are doing the right thing. We will continue to invest in our content and technology and explore innovative partnerships to build a scalable and sustainable business.