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AVIA mantra: Challenges galore but opportunities abound in Asia’s huge diverse markets for quality content

By Shaun Lim

Amidst a time of immense innovation and disruption in the video industry, a focus on content and the consumer will be the key driver for growth and sustainability in Asia.

Or more specifically, providing the content that an operator’s target audience is looking for, as Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA, highlighted, “Content is the product and so getting the product right with the right mix of content that will appeal to the broadest number and range of subscribers is really the core of the proposition, be that linear TV or streaming.

“Content strategies differ from service to service but perhaps the two key pillars are: International content which has broad appeal across Asian markets, and local content, which super serves domestic audiences in key markets.”

Boswell spoke to APB+ after the successful conclusion of the Asia Video Summit (AVS) 2022, a hybrid in-person and online conference that attracted 300 delegates from November 1-2.

As the delegates continued to ponder their strategies for 2023, they heard from industry stalwarts and experts such as Donovan Chan, Founding Partner of Beach House Pictures, a production house headquartered in Singapore.

Speaking on the importance of compelling content, Chan shared how sticking to premium programming that was efficiently produced at a high quality to deliver on what audiences want and need was a key part of Beach House Picture’s strategy to move more content from East to West.

While agreeing that content remains king, Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India, was keen to highlight that this does not equate to an “either or” situation but advised operators to develop strategies that could be considered across content, activation, distribution, and pricing.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, Ricky Ow, Partner, Quest Ventures, recommended meeting personal consumer demands at a reasonable price point when it comes to rebundling, and benefiting consumers and content providers by reducing churn and increasing sustainability.

Expect aggregation to be a key focus for operators moving forward, Boswell added. “Having a small number of gateways to access content is desirable rather than having to subscribe individually to many services and manage payments to each.

“There is also a sense that most companies are clearer and more comfortable in their vision than a few years ago and the goal is now much more on execution, rather than on defining their strategies,” he explained. 

Ad-supported models growing

With Netflix having introduced an ad-supported subscription plan, it is perhaps not surprising that Disney+ is now preparing for the launch of its own ad-supported offering this December.

Or, as James Gibbons, President & Managing Director, Western Pacific, Warner Bros. Discovery, shared at AVS 2022, a business without an advertising component is “no longer meaningful”.

While there was previously a real emphasis on subscriber growth, and the belief that the market for subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) was infinite, he highlighted why this is no longer the case as operators overhaul their thinking behind how to access the growth and value of their companies.

Describing the over-the-top (OTT) advertising space as being “under-indexed” in Asia, Alex Lowes, Vice-President, Client Engagement & Growth, APAC, Finecast, urged stakeholders to come together to grow this space, as they share the commonality of offering addressable premium broadcast quality content. 

With the global economy continuing to face political and economic uncertainties heading into 2023, it is perhaps inevitable that caution and a focus on costs will be priorities for the new year.

Boswell predicted, “Advertising will be in the spotlight more than ever before and we will be hoping that advertising comprises a significantly higher proportion of revenue at the end of 2023 than 2022, and maybe the fallout from social media advertising will benefit the curated industry.”

As demonstrated by the strategy deployed by Beach House Pictures, Boswell also sees the continuation of more content producers looking to bring their content to previously unexplored markets in search of new viewers.

He described, “There is a growing focus on the opportunity to export content, a path that has been blazed by South Korea and there is no shortage of aspiring contenders attempting to emulate that model but I would be foolish to place bets on who is most likely to succeed.”

Like many other industries, Asia’s video industry is likely to be faced with disruption and challenges. Opportunities, however, will also abound for the hugely diverse market. Alysha Dino, Senior Director, Global Business Development, Publica, for example, shared how 50% of viewers in South-east Asia are watching content online.

Clearly, there continues to be an insatiable appetite for quality content among viewers in Asia. The challenge for operators is how to make this content accessible in a manner that is economically viable for themselves and their viewers.

“Really, it is all about growing the bottom line and seeking growth in Asia and developing emerging targets like Indonesia,” Boswell concluded.

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