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Battle for Global Streaming Supremacy Focus of ATF Leaders Summit

Enlarged font  Narrow font Release date:2020-01-10  Author:Ronald Hee, Special Correspondent, Singapore  Browse number:768
Note: A new addition to Singapore's annual Asia TV Forum and Market, the one-day Leaders' Summit, saw senior industry figures
A new addition to Singapore's annual Asia TV Forum and Market, the one-day Leaders' Summit, saw senior industry figures outline where they stood as to the likely biggest winners in the ongoing war for streaming market share.

Extreme streaming: Unique onscreen content remains the core means of securing subscribers.
Photo: Extreme streaming: Unique o<em></em>nscreen co<em></em>ntent remains the core means of securing subscribers. (
Extreme streaming: Unique onscreen content remains the core means of securing subscribers.

This year's Asia TV Forum and Market – one of the key event's for content creators and distributors across the region – featured not only a general conference and trade show (with comprehensive details available here: Asian Language Content Set to Challenge Hollywood's Global Dominance), but also a one-day Leaders' Summit. Focusing on the latter, it was clear that Asia is set to be the new battleground for streaming supremacy.

Indeed, among the latest wars being launched from the US is an all-out assault intended to annex TV viewers the world over and, in particular, across Asia. In late 2019, the country saw the launch of two global streaming operations – Disney+ and Apple TV+ – with two further launches – NBC's Peacock and AT&T's HBO Max – planned for early this year. Taken together with the existing US-based players (including Netflix and Amazon), these services are now expected to see OTT (over the top – that is paid channels excluding cable TV) video household penetration reach a record 82% in the US, with many of the other developed markets not lagging far behind. Essentially, for the American TV audience, streaming has become the new cable, with the rest of the world thought to be ripe to adopt pretty much exactly the same model.

One keen evangelist as to the likely success of the US streamers was Tony Gunnarsson, a Principal Analyst with Ovum, a specialist London-headquartered digital media research consultancy. Maintaining there would be a billion OTT subscribers globally by 2021 and that the medium would overtake cable by 2023, he said: "In the US, we are tracking 65 streaming services, of which 26 have more than one million subscribers. Globally, OTT video doesn't just appeal to the young, as many seem to think, with the largest proportion of the audience aged 35-44, followed by those in the 45-51 bracket.

"In total, half of global OTT revenue is from North America, with Asia Pacific the second-largest market at 25%, somewhat ahead of Europe. Within the AP region, China accounts for 60% of revenue, while the top five markets – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India – make up a whopping 93% of the total."

Within Asia, he noted that many of these new global players – Disney, Apple, Peacock and HBO Max – will be up against local operators, most of which forefront local-language content, while also facing regulatory barriers in certain markets, with China being the most obvious example. Summing up the particular challenges, Gunnarsson said: "The Asian countries are relatively dissimilar compared with those in other regional markets such as Europe or Latin America. In most Asian markets, cable TV also continues to dominate, rather than streaming. OTT video does, however, represent about 40% of the combined cable TV and OTT market, while in a few countries – Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – the OTT share is now in excess of 50%.

"In many ways, though, 2020 could mark the beginning of tougher times for local players, many of which are already struggling to compete with the major US services. It will be a time of intense competition, mergers and price wars and the rise of new hybrid models. With the rollout of the new major US players set to take place over a number of years, local players will need to initiate the kind of promotional activity and strategies already common in the US market in order to survive."

Looking specifically at the China market, Gong Yu, Chief Executive of iQiyi, the Beijing-headquartered streaming giant, said: "The two critical technologies here are artificial intelligence [AI] and 5G. The former will allow us to better curate what viewers want to see, while the latter will give us the facility to deliver a better viewing experience, regardless of what kind of device is being used or where it is being watched.

Skull and Roses: The Bachelor meets Survivor.
Photo: Skull and Roses: The Bachelor meets Survivor.
Skull and Roses: The Bachelor meets Survivor.
A Little Reunion: A tale of aspirant Chinese youth.
Photo: A Little Reunio<em></em>n: A tale of aspirant Chinese youth.
A Little Reunion: A tale of aspirant Chinese youth.

"For our part, our business model is a bit like Disney's in that we have offerings that go beyond video and into comics, novels, games… It's all based around our IP, with a third of our investment now going into creating original properties. We've also started to expand beyond China with a soft launch earlier this year into Southeast Asia in partnership with Malaysia's Astro."

Switching the spotlight more on to the preferences of junior viewers, Michelle Ching, the APAC Regional Sales Director for TotallyAwesome, the Singapore-headquartered digital kids TV specialist, said: "It's particularly notable that Pay TV watch time is dropping. In the US, for instance, it's dropped by 17% since 2010. For kids aged 2-11, it's a decline of 36%, while for 12-17-year-olds, it's 56%. The beneficiaries here have been the online and streaming services, with 170,000 kids now going online for the first time every day. In the Asia-Pacific region, 80% of kids now prefer the internet to TV – up from 67% in 2017. Interestingly, YouTube, while still dominant, is losing ground – with 67% of kids now describing it as their preferred channel, compared with 76% last year.

"Overall, Gen Z now outnumbers millennials, having become the dominant generation in 2019. The upcoming generation – Gen Alpha, those born between 2011 and 2025 – will be even bigger and likely to number more than two billion in total. That's going to be a lot of fresh consumers for creators to develop content for and there's already a lack of new material. This year's family-oriented releases, for instance, are nearly all sequels or spinoffs and there's very little original content."

Drilling down into the programming making waves across the region, Michelle Lin, APAC Manager for K7 Media, a Manchester-based broadcast media consultancy, singled out three formats in particular, saying: "First, there are the mash-ups, the programmes that are a mixture of formats. A prime example would be Your Moment, a Filipino reality talent show that combines elements of both a singing and a dancing competition. Then there's Skull and Roses from India, which is pretty much The Bachelor meets Survivor.

"A second trend is for shows that embrace social change, notably two South Korean offerings – Fund Together, which pitches social change projects, and Little Forest, which sees celebrities take preschoolers on an educational trip into a forest. A third trend would be programming that looks at life in different and fun ways. Notable examples of this are two Japanese offerings – Red Carpet Survival, a game show where contestants take on the roles of bodyguards, and Time is Money, which sees celebrities share their life hacks."

Meanwhile, maintaining that drama is the key growth sector across Asia, Avril Blondelot, Head of Content Insight for Glance, a Paris-headquartered audience-research specialist, said: "Fiction, mostly dramas, now makes up 60% of the region's programming with the proportion only set to increase as original concepts represent 78% of all new scripted shows.

"Such content typically falls into one of three categories. Firstly, there are stories of impossible love, such as Vietnam's Tieng Set Trong Mua and Malaysia's Cetera Hati Diya. The second trend is for tales of aspiring youngsters, notably China's A Little Reunion and Indonesia's Gadis Pemimpi. Finally, there are the mysteries, which are typified by South Korea's Hotel Del Luna and India's Kailasapuram."

Industry leaders debate the big issues at the 2019 Asia TV Forum.
Photo: Industry leaders debate the big issues at the 2019 Asia TV Forum.
Industry leaders debate the big issues at the 2019 Asia TV Forum.

The 2019 Asia TV Forum and Market took place from 3-6 December at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre.

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