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Video streaming is the new TV

Even some of the most-watched TV programmes in the world, including next month’s FIFA World Cup, are increasingly being streamed onto mobile devices

BY SHAWN LIEW

The Netflix juggernaut is showing no signs of slowing down. The video-on-demand (VoD) streaming service’s CFO David Wells recently announced that the company will be spending upwards of US$8 billion on content in 2018.

In the process, that will bring Netflix’s original programming to an eye-catching 700 titles.

And it would appear that this is a strategy that is resonating with audiences worldwide.

Analyst firm Digital TV Research forecasts that Netflix will have 201 million subscribers by 2023, of which 14% will come from Asia-Pacific.

Just what, then, is so inherently attractive about Netflix?

“Let’s continue to add content — it’s working, it’s driving growth,” said Wells. Nothing surprising there; content is still king, in spite of the cliché.

In Asia-Pacific, cost is also a factor, regardless of which angle you are looking from. With piracy still rampant in the region, some consumers remain reluctant to pay for content — not when they can get it for free, albeit at poor quality.

Paradoxically, Netflix is the prime example of how consumers around the world, including Asia-Pacific, are still willing to pay for premium content — at a price, when compared to many fixed pay-TV packages, appears negligible in comparison.

And there is another factor, one that is arguably of most concern to traditional broadcasters and pay-TV operators. While the TV set remains a key fixture in many households, changing lifestyles and increasingly sophisticated mobile devices mean that viewers today are not averse to watching entire TV programmes on the ‘small screen’.

Next month’s FIFA World Cup in Russia is likely to be highly informative when it comes to gauging viewers’ acceptance of video streaming.

According to FIFA, the world football’s governing body, the 2014 FIFA World Cup broke online streaming records worldwide. A total of 40 FIFA Media Licensees booked around 120 multimedia services for match coverage, while the FIFA World Cup “white-label” second screen app was downloaded more than 10 million times in more than 20 broadcast territories.

If this trend is matched or, indeed, surpassed this year, it would lend further credence to the argument that viewers are shifting towards non-linear viewing; or at the very least, indicate that they are as comfortable consuming content on their mobile devices as they are on their TV sets.

How traditional operators address this growing trend, aligned with high-quality content and competitive pricing, may well go a long way towards preventing them from being mere footnotes in the new TV history that the likes of Netflix are continuing to write.


Shawn Liew is managing editor of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting (APB), the B2B publication that has been monitoring the trends and technologies impacting the broadcast and media industries for the past 35 years.
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