‘I love piracy’ says former Disney exec as panel debates the impact of OTT platforms in Asia

The former head of Walt Disney’s digital operation in India said during a panel debate on the rise of internet television last week that he is a fan of content piracy as it serves as a useful indicator of what people want to watch.

Talking on a panel at the All That Matters conference in Singapore, Samir Bangara, co-founder of Indian youth-focused online broadcast network Qyuki Digital Media, argued that the biggest problem for content creators at the moment is getting discovered, and piracy helps to “find what is working.”

Samir Bangara, Co Founder & Managing Director, Qyuki Ervin Chan, Regional Vice President, SEA & India, Ooyala ShuFen Lin, Vice President, Family Segment & HubLife, StarHub Alex Muller, Managing Director, TV5MONDE Krishnan Rajagopalan, Co Founder/Chief of Content and Distribution, HOOQ

Netflix’s Tony Zameczkowski, Qyuki’s Samir Bangara, Ervin Chan of Ooyala StarHub’s Shufen Lin, Alex Muller of TV5Monde, Krishnan Rajagopalan of HOOQ, Anson Tan from Viu

“I’m going to put it out there. I love piracy. Because guess what, the biggest problem right now is discoverability. There are tens of thousands of hours of content getting uploaded. The challenge is finding what is working,” Bangara said on a panel moderated by Tony Zameczkowski, regional head of business development for Netflix.

“What is getting pirated is by default working. Game of Thrones is great, so it’s going to get pirated,” he said.

Also on the panel was the VP and head, entertainment and SmartLife at StarHub, Shufen Lin, who said that piracy was “the biggest thing that keeps us awake at night.”

She said that StarHub launched an OTT service, StarHub Go, to combat piracy and protect its pay-TV business, and the launch of shows such the latest season of Game of Thrones through a deal with HBO was helping to give consumers the legal means to watch their favourite content. However, Lin said it was difficult to compete with pirated sites in Singapore because they offer content that can be downloaded or streamed censorship-free.

Another key challenge facing OTT providers and pay-TV operators alike as they fight a losing battle against piracy is creating a brand that is well differentiated in an increasingly cluttered market.

“It’s very difficult to find a sustained differentiator that cannot be copied or overtaken,” said Lin in response to a question about how OTT brands can stand out.

Offering the right content and building a compelling customer experience that keeps people coming back to the service are key, Lin said, stressing that customer retention is a key challenge for OTT providers, with consumers often subscribing to watch a single football match or movie before moving on.

“There’s an incredible amount of fragmentation in the market right now. There’s an app for everything. I don’t think that’s ideal for customers. We want to be that player that customers come back to,” she said.

Among the OTT players to launch in Asia to take on Netflix is Singtel’s HOOQ, and the company’s co-founder Krishnan Rajagopalan said that “differentiation is the name of the game” as the market develops.

He pointed to HOOQ’s idea, which has since been emulated by rivals, of offering consumers in emerging markets very short-term subscriptions called “sachets” as the brand’s point of difference. “Sachets changed retail in Asia, and they will change the way content is consumed,” he said.

At the close of the session, Lin called on the panel to come together to tackle piracy, an issue she said she believes can be beaten with the right ideas and motivation. “I think with the right experience, content and business model customers will pay [for content],” she said.


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