Louis Boswell on Asia Video Summit Highlights


This year’s Asia Video Summit will be largely virtual, with two small physical events planned in Hong Kong and Singapore, exploring the streaming and pay-TV landscapes, advertising and gender diversity in the industry, Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) CEO Louis Boswell tells World Screen.

“What we try to do with the Asia Video Summit is to tell the story of what is happening in our industry and get the key players to tell it,” says Boswell of the annual event, which runs from November 10 to 12 this year. “So at the heart of the conversation will be the roles of linear television and streaming. There is so much talk about streaming that it is easy to overlook the developments in television, which is still by any measure a much bigger sector than streaming. And within television, the challenges of free and pay TV are very different. We want to understand all of this and also look at the phenomenon of new investment in pay TV that we have been seeing recently.”

On the streaming front, meanwhile, the summit will feature speakers from both local and global platforms and explore the “challenges of devising a service for a local audience versus having a service that is provided to markets all around the region,” Boswell says.

Advertising will be a core area of focus, alongside technology and live sports. “Finally, we are excited to be hosting a conversation about gender diversity in the video industry, and how we need to address this issue,” Boswell says. “One small example—we have to work so much harder to get female rather than male speakers at an event like this. Why is that and how do we change that dynamic?”

Speakers at this year’s event include Amazon Prime India’s Gaurav Gandhi, Astro’s Agnes Rozario, BBC Studios’ Ryan Shiotani, CATCHPLAY Group’s Daphne Yang, iQIYI’s Kuek Yu-Chuang, Mediacorp’s Angeline Poh, Netflix’s Aki Taha, PCCW Media’s Mamie Leung, Rewind Networks’ Avi Himatsinghani, TV5MONDE’s Alexandre Muller, WarnerMedia’s Clement Schwebig and many more. See the full lineup here.

Boswell says that he and his team have been on a “learning journey” this year as it adapts to virtual events. “It is a bit like taking a play and turning it into television. It is not easy, but with each one, I think we have clearly improved and we are excited about the production values we will see at Asia Video Summit. It should be a big step up from anything we have done before. Plus, we will take our first small steps to bring back the physical side of the event with an event for 50 people each in Hong Kong and Singapore.”

Boswell also points to the role AVIA has played in helping members deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. “AVIA is focused on what unites us as an industry and where we can be stronger together,” he says. “Clearly COVID-19 has caused us an unprecedented challenge and we need to stick together more than ever. As we started to face the prospect of the first lockdown, I am very proud that AVIA played a key role in conversations with government to navigate continuity of services, definitions of essential staff and continued access to key broadcast facilities. In Singapore, where so much of our industry is headquartered, things could have gotten messy without us playing that role. And besides that, COVID has not stopped all of the other challenges we face as an industry so we have been busier than ever trying to deal with business challenges our industry faces, piracy and regulatory issues.”

Combating piracy remains a key AVIA initiative through its Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), which Boswell says “has been responsible this year for some of the most impressive results we have seen, especially in Indonesia where at the beginning of the year we helped bring about the closure of indoXXi, the biggest pirate network in the country.  Through our efforts to implement a strategy of rolling site blocking, by mid-year, we had measured a 68 percent decline in piracy traffic and an 18 percent uptick in the use of legal services. Elsewhere in Malaysia and Singapore we have been also actively engaged in site blocking to very positive effect, and we believe we are creating the environment which could see the Philippines embrace site blocking as part of its arsenal in the fight against piracy.”

With the video streaming industry in AsiaPac at a “historic moment,” Boswell notes, AVIA has been in talks with governments and regulators about the future of the sector. “We have just published a Governance Framework for Online Curated Content Services (OCC), which lays out concrete commitments and standards in order to deepen discussions with APAC regulators and reassure consumers. From a YouGov survey commissioned by AVIA covering five Asian markets, it is clear that consumers expect to be in control of deciding what content is suitable for them and their families (77 percent) and the majority (62 percent) expect OCC service providers to provide content ratings and advisories in order for them to be able to do this. Critically, were censorship of content on these services to be introduced, a staggering 80 percent of consumers in these markets would either cancel their subscription, reduce consumption or even resort to piracy. 2021 will be a busy year for us as we engage governments in discussions over these issues to ensure we continue to have an environment that promotes industry and allows the industry to grow and invest in local markets.”

Combating piracy will also remain key as the association ups its site-blocking efforts, “in particular, growing the ‘rolling’ site blocking approach. We will pursue criminal enforcement against website, app and illicit streaming device operators. And we will work on the consumer awareness of these issues.”

Boswell also stresses the importance of AVIA in providing support for the development of AsiaPac’s AVOD sector. “As an industry, we are working together to agree on common definitions, standards, best practices and premium features to set us apart from other ad buys for content delivered over the internet. A user-generated video is not the same as a piece of content that has cost millions of dollars to produce and which may tell a story over hours and episodes. The engagement and experience are completely different from that of engaging with a piece of user-generated content and we need to develop broader recognition of this.”

Boswell adds, “With COVID-19 still around, it is going to be another hard year for us and the industry, but you can be assured it will be a busy one.”