Like many countries in South-east Asia, Thailand has introduced lockdowns in one form or another over the past few months to manage the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more time spent at home, it is perhaps inevitable that the almost 70 million Thai people are consuming more content than they have ever before. And while on-demand content is beginning to gain more popularity, traditional TV retains an important role in Thai society, according to Amornphat Chomrat, Managing Director, Next Step Company (NSC).
Speaking exclusively to AB+, Chomrat pointed out, “In Thailand, 60% of households are still watching TV from direct-to-home (DTH) satellite due to the widespread geographical area of the country. This is especially true in rural areas where the Internet is not available, or is available but not affordable to people.”
Established in 1988, NSC reaches about 20 million viewers in Thailand, including via its satellite TV platform — Good TV, which aims to provide quality content for the entire family at an affordable price.
While agreeing that subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) and over-the-top (OTT) services are drawing away more viewers, Chomrat does not necessarily view the likes of Netflix or Disney+ as threats to traditional linear channels in Thailand.
Comparing linear channels to the consumption of music, Chomrat analogised, “When you tune into a radio station, the DJ chooses the playlist, which may include pop, smooth jazz or other music genres. With linear channels, we choose the content for the viewers. Think of it as having to choose what to watch from 1,000 DVDs – some people just do not like to do this.”
In Thailand, the NSC chief saw linear channels appealing more to viewers over 35 years old, while SVoD attracts a younger audience that sees it as being supplementary to linear TV. While these differing platforms will serve and reach out to different target audiences, the common factor for success will be content design and differentiation to meet the needs of each target group, Chomrat highlighted.
At Good TV, providing segmented content that entertains is a key and continuous goal, including the addition of more documentary channels to appeal to different viewer profiles. “We do not just create one channel to fit all. Instead, we create a number of channels to meet lifestyle needs and interests, including science, mystery, investigation, food and travel, among others,” Chomrat explained.
In the long run, this content segmentation or “localisation” strategy will hold Good TV in good stead and allow them to compete for eyeballs with SVoD platforms. Thai viewers will continue to gravitate towards local content, while international content can be infused with a dose of local flavour by voice dubbing or subtitles in the local language, he added.
While SVoD will provide the perk of consuming content at any time and on any device, satellite DTH platforms such as Good TV hold the advantage of being able to provide extensive coverage across Thailand, without having to incur the cost of Internet usage.
Reiterating that linear and non-linear channels serve different segments of viewers and their needs, Chomrat said, “We cannot stop the rise of SVoD, and neither are we against it. On the contrary, we believe that SVoD and linear can co-exist harmoniously, similar to radio and TV in the old days. However, we have to find the right balance for these two services to complement each other.”
He also called on DTH operators in South-east Asia to come together to improve cooperation in areas such as content creation. “Collectively, we can reduce the cost of creating content while increasing the number of channels to reach a wider target audience and be more competitive in a changing market,” he said.
As Good TV continues on its mission of providing quality and relevant content to Thai viewers at an affordable price, technology will also continue to be leveraged as a key enabler. Good TV, as Chomrat was quick to point out, remains the only satellite pay-TV operator in Thailand to use H.265, or the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video compression standard, to provide all-HD channels to their subscribers.
“This allows us to provide more high-quality channels at an affordable price point, and we are also looking for new ways of providing better services,” he added. “For instance, our research shows that 85% of our customers are satisfied with our call centre, where we continue to provide the human touch through operators, rather than chat bots.”
Perhaps, more importantly, regardless of which platform viewers choose, content will always be king, no matter how tired the cliché may sound.
“To attract and retain viewers, the most important thing for us to do is to improve content that fits in with the tastes and lifestyles of our customers, and to offer them more choices in the form of channel segmentation,” Chomrat concluded.