By Azuan Muda
The subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) is expected to grow for the next five years with China’s – Tencent’s WeTV, Baidu’s iQiyi, Alibaba’s Youku, Mango TV and Bilibili – leading the pack in the Asia Pacific region. The Indian market is following suit after Disney+ shows strong growth, overtook Netflix in terms of the number of subscribers.
According to Digital TV Research, the Asia Pacific region will have 698 million SVOD subscriptions by 2026, up from 502 million at the end of 2021. In the same report, China is expected to provide 354 million SVOD subscriptions in 2026 while India will reach about 157 million subscribers.
That said, the growth rate for China could be better if only the government relaxes its regulations on the content market. China’s broadcaster regulator, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) recently published an eight-point regulation plan for the entertainment industry. One of the plans includes boycotting the entertaining trends that promote Korean-pop-alike “sissy idols” and reality talent shows. The latter, for example, has had iQiyi cancelled its survival reality show, Youth With You, due to an unhealthy voting model for the sake of gaining high traffic and popularity.
China market is crowded with local incumbents and with the new regulation plan probably, it makes sense for WeTV and iQiyi to divert their attention to the Southeast Asia market. The same case goes to the Hong Kong-based PCCW’s Viu.
After exiting the Indian market in 2019, Viu is in the race with big guns like Netflix and Disney+ in Southeast Asia. It seems that Viu understands the market better than others by focusing on the fast-growing middle-class population in Malaysia and Indonesia, especially. Offering them Korean dramas and a hybrid tiered model-free and subscription-, insofar, have given Viu an early lead.
The deciding factor to win this OTT game is perhaps original content, with solid platform distribution strategies in place. Netflix’s original content has been driving its subscription for years. It reportedly spent almost USD$2-billion-dollar between 2018 and 2020 on creating content especially for Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. And the word ‘binge’ is already synonymously associated with watching Netflix’s original dramas and films for longer hours.